Kill your audience… quickly, but not painlessly: agenda slides?

Horrible Agenda

The start of your presentation is extremely important.  You have a minute or so to get the audiences attention. This is how not to do it:

“Hi I am <John Doe> from the <University of the Dead>. Today I am here to present to you my paper on <critical factor analysis in audience paralysis>. This paper is written with my supervisor, <Prof Way Too Sharp>.  Let’s look at our agenda. I will start off with a brief introduction. This will be followed by an overview of <factor analysis>, as well as an overview of  <audience paralysis>. Thereafter I will present to you the <relevant related work>.  This will be followed by my <problem statement> and some <objectives>. Subsequently I will illuminate <the methodology>, present the <results> and then embark on a <discussion of the results>. Finally I will <conclude> and present some ideas for <future work>.”

Congratulations if you managed to read this far… imagine listening to that.  This would have most probably been accompanied by the accompanying slide.  Ask yourself what value this brings?  Ahh, some say it allows the audience memebre to “know where in your talk you are… Total crap!!  Nobody is going to rememebr this list, and even they could they time spent on each point is likely not equal.

So what should I do? Start “differently”, start with a testimonial, start with an anecdote, start with a statement (the edgier the better), start with an example, but please, BIG PLEASE, do not start with sleep therapy. See ideas on how to start your presentation.

And if my boss/professor/whoever insist on an agenda slide. List the main things, the main messages (max 4 or 5, preferably 3) that you are going to start with and try and make it more interesting.  In my anecdotal intro, we could have had:

“Have you ever felt bored in a presentation? Well today we are going to investigate this further. We will answer the question “Why are the audience bored?”.  I, <John Doe>,  and my supervisor, Prof Way Too Sharp> have qualitatively studied boredom in audiences, so today we are going to share with you: <why people say they get bored> and <what we observed in observed audiences>. I will conclude by sharing with you the <lesson that we’ve learned> by providing some <guidelines> for delivering better talks”.  In a different post we will look at how we can support this “agenda” through slides, even though a bulleted list now almost is consumable… (but far from ideal)

Do you think the second approach is better?  Better, maybe, perfect far from.  Another day i will post how to turn this intro of the talk into something much more consumable.

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

UPDATE: for further enhancements read The Return of the Agenda Slide…


4 Responses to Kill your audience… quickly, but not painlessly: agenda slides?

  1. Phumezo says:

    Now that you have mentioned it Prof, the two approaches are hugely different,, maybe some of us do the first approach because we used to seeing people do it,,, and maybe its time to get out of the usual and be creative,,

    All in all great staff Prof,,,

    Keep posting more,, some of us are learning here

  2. Jacques says:

    Nothing worse than a boring start to a presentation – even if you have something interesting to say later you have already lost your audience.
    I actually prefer no agenda slide and just getting straight into it. But this should probably be based on your audience, as the second related post says…

    • rabotha says:

      The need for an agenda slide is also related to the length of your presentation – for a 15 minute presentation you may loose valuable time, for an hour long one, maybe the audience need some markers – a roadmap, that can also be used to from time to time remind audience of progress.

  3. […] form your audience? Well, you have come to the right place.In a previous post I had it in for agenda slides which potentially can get the audience to switch off before you start. I did offer some further tips in the return of the agenda slide, but of course […]

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