Two common mistakes

Early this week I heard a presentation by an excellent speaker. The individual spoke loudly, clearly, and had a gift for verbally organizing thoughts and words. Nevertheless the presentation had some real problems and the speaker communicated far less than intended. There were two major problems:

1. The slides did not help the speaker. They were cluttered with a massive amount of irrelevant information that distracted the audience. The speaker never made reference to this extraneous material on the slides. Remember, if you don't talk about something on a slide, ask yourself why it is there, and nine out of ten times, you'll remove it. This speaker would have been far more effective not having any slides and drawing a few figures on a white board.

2. Information overload. The speaker attempted to present a fairly detailed account of six recent clinical trials. This was way too much information for the audience to absorb. The speaker would have been better off describing one trial and providing concise summaries of the other five (if the audience really needed to hear about all six). We all suffer from a child-like impulse to talk about everything we know and there is a tendency to assume that the audience understands and retains everything we say. Reject these urges! The audience cannot absorb great detail. There is a tendency for speakers to develop talks for themselves rather than the audience. The speaker needs to help the audience every step of the way.

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