What’s More Important in Your Presentation? Content or Delivery?

Rubbish wrapped in a ribbbon?

Rubbish wrapped in style?

Presentation day looming? You’re Eddie Izzard, you’re Margaret Thatcher, you’re a children’s storyteller! Unless your aim is to induce a coma on your poor audience, your presentation needs to be more than just words. Your job is to entertain, to enlighten and most importantly, get your message across.

It’s not uncommon to be nervous about speaking in front of a group, but a sizeable chunk of these nerves can be put to one side if you’re prepared and know your stuff. You want to be able to walk out in front of your audience and before you’ve even said a word, convey the message – “shut your mouths and listen to my face, I’m wonderful!”

Of course, you should never say this out loud.

Let’s take a look at a few ideas that emphasise the importance of the delivery.


Does Your Powerpoint Presentation Have More Personality Than You?

Slideshow software is fantastic for demonstrating key points and showing information in a clear and appropriate manner. Unfortunately, many people believe it’s a substitute for human interaction and end up giving their audience nothing but lumbar pain and an unnatural compulsion to book in with a Swiss clinic.

In the world of academia, Stephen Ceci, a university professor at Cornell improved his evaluations over two terms simply by changing the way in which he delivered the content. What’s noteworthy is that the content did not change, only the delivery. In the second term of teaching, with a new group of students, he added more gestures, used his tone of voice tactically and generally become more enthusiastic when lecturing.

After he introduced new delivery techniques, the following happened:

  • The professor was perceived as being a more effective lecturer
  • He was considered to be more open, to others’ ideas
  • He was viewed as being more organised
  • Even Ceci’s textbooks were perceived to be 20% better than with previous classes
  • The students’ believed had learned more

But the content didn’t change, just the delivery. Are you getting the point?


Men! Evolution Not Your Cup of Tea?

According to primary school history lessons, men used to spend their days fighting wild animals and eventually eating them. But unless you’re from certain parts of the country, chances are you’ve evolved and now chase fewer beasts through the street.

Men, unless an irate pterodactyl is gazing at you from behind the whiteboard, there’s really no need to cover your throat with your hand. This is a primitive gesture that men make when faced with a threat, which a few thousand years ago may well have been an angry bird with serrated teeth but nowadays it could equally be Jane from accounts who is eager to talk to you about the Weatherspoons receipts you submitted on expenses.

Either way, when you’re trying to instill a sense of confidence in your audience, gestures like this will not be welcomed. Another example is the “penalty shoot out pose” where your legs are shoulder width apart and your hands covering your crotch. This is absolutely fine if you’re delivering your presentation 18 yards from the goalposts at Wembley, not so great if you’re living in the real world.


Women, Are You Shrinking?

Standing with your feet together like you’re in choir practice is not a confidence builder for your audience.  And while we’re at it, leave your hair alone! Women tend to be guilty of this sin and often need to be told to adopt a more authoritative stance.


To Sum it All Up

The fact of the matter is, your audience is human and as such will fail to separate the delivery from the content, which is why it’s your responsibility to deliver the right content in the right way. A presentation should be seen as a way to add some flavour to what you’re trying to say so there’s no excuse for delivering what could be said using words on a page. Text is vanilla, presentations are mint choc chip.


To see what we did to shape up content and delivery in academia and business, click here for the case studies


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