The Coco Chanel guide to killer presentations

It’s tempting to think just one more thing will “make” your presentation, but it likely won’t. Heed the advice from one of fashion’s legendary designers.

I nearly fell into the night-before-your-presentation trap a couple of weeks ago. You know the feeling. You’re reviewing your slides and rehearsing what you’ll say, and then decide to throw in one more tactic, audience interaction, slide or video.

In this case, I almost upended the order of my presentation so I could use a tactic that worked well before. It even fit with my topic. Fortunately I stopped myself, thinking, “Remember Coco.”

Coco Chanel, the epitome of elegance, is said to have advised women, “Before you head out the door, take one thing off” from among the accessories you have on.

This is advice speakers would be wise to consider, lest their presentations start to look like Christmas trees decked out from top to bottom. It’s tempting to think just one more thing will “make” the presentation, but it might actually detract from your impact.

You might need to remove the following things from your presentation:

  • Slide jewelry, like animation, transitions, bullets, videos and sound. This also includes too many charts, pictures and graphics. Pile on those cone charts only if you want your audience to start counting how many you included.
  • Audience stylings, like posing questions, taking polls of the audience, or using volunteers to demonstrate key points. At some point, you may look as if you’re distracting your audience from a lack of content.
  • Technology tinsel, from laser pointers to slick videos. You may dazzle your listeners, but will they remember your point?
  • Language lightshows, such as using alliteration with an analogy with a story. Too many rhetorical devices make your audience think about your machinery, not your point. Be confident in your content, and don’t deck it out with boughs of holly.

Have you seen presenters who pile on the equivalent of too many necklaces? Share your pet peeves in the comments.

Denise Graveline is the president of don’t get caught, a communications consultancy. She also writes The Eloquent Woman blog, where a version of this article originally ran.

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Topics: PR

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