5 Reasons Why Traditional Business Presentations Don’t Engage (and How To Change The Game)

5 Reasons Why Traditional Business Presentations Don’t Engage (and How To Change The Game)

1-      Problem: The poorly defined objective

What is the objective of a performance review presentation? To present the performance? Well, if it were, you may as well just email the results.


Most executives prepare business presentations with poor objectives in mind. Not wrong ones, but objectives that just aren’t specific enough. Usually, the objective is either unrealistic (trying to sell a product in the first meeting, rather than scheduling a next meeting); or the objective just isn’t worth it (present results: for what?).



First, ask yourself what you want your audience to DO, THINK and/or FEEL AT THE VERY END of your presentation. Try to go for the “DO.” But if this isn’t possible and you can only target audience feelings or thoughts, ask yourself, “Why is that?”


In the case of the performance review presentation:  Do you want to present simply results, or do you want the boss to feel confident about your management skills and think you’re the best person to run the business?


2-      Problem: Facts and figures make for a poor story

A sequence of facts and figures does not engage. A story does.


People tend to collect what they believe are important facts and figures, throw them onto slides, and in this way create a presentation deck. But, although the data may be important, the slides will not engage. Worse, data-filled slides don’t touch on the emotions, and this makes it that much harder to move an audience.



Create the story FIRST. Something with a beginning, a middle and a closing. Something that’s going to be interesting even without slides. Then, and only then, open your PowerPoint program and design slides that will support that story without changing it in any way. Do NOT start with the slides!


3-      Problem: So what? [aka irrelevant information]

Who matters most in a presentation? The presenter or the audience?


Unfortunately, most presenters spend most of their time and energy talking about what’s most important to them and not what matters to the audience.  They brag about the size of their companies, how many employees they have, in how many countries they have offices, how smart and innovative they are.


But think a minute. If you’re the audience, why would you care about any of that? What if a company had more employees and less offices but also something you, the audience, care about and need? If you can picture your audience reacting to a slide and saying, “So what? What do I care about that?” then you need to rethink that message.



For EVERY SINGLE THING you say, think whether it will really, DIRECTLY help your audience. Whether it will make their lives easier and better. Whether they really need it. And if you discover that what you’re saying isn’t going to be of direct benefit to the audience, either get rid of it or repackage it.

4-      Problem: Too much text on slides

I know this is obvious. But we still see the vast majority of people doing it. As we’ve written before, a stand-alone presentation should have plenty of text, since a presenter isn’t there to tell the story.


But when you present face-to-face and still use a lot of slide text, you’ve made yourself redundant…. An audience will usually prefer to read the slides at their own pace rather than wait for you to read to them. You’ve become … well, redundant.  After all, who needs a presenter for collective reading?



For a face-to-face meeting, use as little text as possible on the slides and you’ll be the most sought-after person in the room.


5-      Problem: Screen as teleprompter

This is a close relative of the previous bad idea.


Communication comes from the Latin communicare, which refers to the idea of sharing.  And with whom does a presenter share a story? The audience.


But when the presenter depends on the slides to deliver that story and focuses on the screen, the connection with the audience is lost. Audience attention and focus are directed to the screen and away from the presenter. But why would anybody want to watch you interact with a screen?  How can you possibly engage somebody in this way?



First, get to know each slide, so you don’t need more than a glance to identify it. Then turn to the audience and tell them the story behind each slide. This way, your connection is with your audience and not the screen, and the audience focus is on you.


Well, with well-defined objectives (short- and long term) you can start to create the story of your presentation first, discover what matters to the audience, bring some facts and figures to support that, and move everybody with a great presentation that breaks with the traditional business presentations.