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

Frankie Kemp

7 January 2014

Presentation day looming?

You’ve slaved over your slides, ensuring that you’ve remembered your key points and a few vital statistics.

But something’s not quite in flow. Everyone says your presentation’s fine but you know you could do better.

Unless your aim is to induce a coma on your poor audience, your presentation needs to be more than just words.

You need to change something.
The problem is what? Is it the content or the delivery?  

Research has been carried out on the biggest differentiator in presenting, and I think you may be quite surprised with the answer….


Does Your PowerPoint Presentation Have More Personality Than You?

Slideshow software is fantastic for demonstrating key points and showing information in a clear and digestible 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 made the following tweaks:

  1. added more gestures,
  2. used his tone of voice tactically and
  3. generally demonstrated more enthusiasm 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 they 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.

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 with 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.  There’s no excuse for delivering what could be said using words on a page. Text is vanilla, presentations are mint choc chip.


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