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by Randall Craig on July 10, 2007

Filed in: Blog, Communication, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Management

Formal presentations are critical to your career success: they are used during the job interview process, as a sales tool, and for key internal meetings.

When we were taught how to make a speech back in grade school, we were given the rudiments: write your notes on cue-cards, don’t read your speech, and focus on the point that you wish to make. Has anything changed? Or have we simply forgotten these basics? Probably the greatest boon to business communication is the PowerPoint program. Unfortunately, it is also the reason that so many presentations flop – or at least, why they rarely achieve their objectives. Think about it: how often have you sat through a dull, seemingly pointless presentation. Typically, the presenters hope to perk us up with snazzy transitions, animations, colorful fonts, and a strange typeface. Or they use a font that is either too big, or so small as to be illegible.

Instead of turning off your audience, before you even think about the first slide, go back to basics by answering two key questions:

1) What are the needs of the audience?

2) What are you hoping to accomplish by the end of your presentation?

The best way to engage a group is to have them focused on your ideas – and on you. Capture this focus by first crafting your presentation without PowerPoint or any visual cues. Once you’ve done that, consider which (if any) concepts are best presented visually, and create graphics for this purpose. Only then should you start working with PowerPoint.

Once your presentation is complete, rehearse it to check for timing, fluency, and impact. The rehearsal can be quick by yourself, or it can be with an audience. Ask your audience (or reconfirm yourself) whether your key questions are answered. If your presentation is worth delivering, then it is worth rehearsing.

This Week’s Action Item: This precise technique (asking, crafting, rehearsing) works for every interaction that you have: with your colleagues, customers, suppliers and recruiters. Before your next meeting or presentation, try it – don’t be PowerPointless.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)



Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at and

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