Wish more PR practitioners would follow this incredibly simple adage.

Couldn’t help but to be impressed by a Twitter post from Austin’s celebrated SXSW  by Eugene, Oregon PR pro Kelli Matthews. She wrote that the key to pitching with PowerPoint is 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30-point font minimum. Yep.

This is so friggin’ simple, but for so many it is so incredibly difficult. The main reason is that it requires discipline, a discipline that so many of us do not have.

Why is this important? The reason is the audience, in particular, your target audience. They are real, breathing, living human beings. They are here on this planet for just so long. Their attention span for what you have to present and advocate is just so long. They have been sitting in the same seat for just so long. The call of nature is coming. Their minds are starting to wonder. They are starting to text. Fumbling through their programs. And there you are, droning on. They are physically present but not mentally present. A good performer knows when it is time to leave the stage…and you are still talking.

When USA Today with its short, easy-to-read-and-comprehend stories was founded by Al Neuharth way back in 1982, the Fourth Estate elite immediately attacked it as “Journalism Lite.” To them, USA Today was less filling and didn’t taste great. What was great were cerebral 70-inch New York Times stories that included multiple jumps. Hope you have the time.

But that is the problem, people don’t have the time (except maybe for Sundays) to spread out the paper. Instead, we are a society on the move. We only have so much personal bandwidth.

Without knowing it, USA Today with its no-jump stories served as a forerunner to Facebook with its quick micro blogs or 140-character Twitter or the crawl at the bottom of the screen on CNBC, ESPN, Fox, CNN etc. We only have so much time, please give me my information now…and spare the details. I want to know what time it is, not how to build a clock.

Once as a trade association rep, I put out a RFP to four PR firms asking for them to pitch their services. The only catch was that I asked for the Ronald Reagan two-pager. That’s right, I wanted their pitch in two pages to see how they could crystalize their thinkng. “But what about our 70-page portfolio?” You would have thought that I was asking them to choose between burning at the stake or drowning. All four gathered themselves, responded with their two pagers, and one was selected. This can be done.

And yet, I would sit around later in my career at PR agency planning sessions where editing constituted adding slides to a presentation. Wait! We have 58 slides right now, and you want to add six more? About what? “Living in Color?” Our commitment to being swell people? How long is our meeting? What? An hour and 20 minutes and we have 64 slides…

Our rule of thumb at LSI Logic was two minutes per slide. If the event organizer was asking for 40 minutes of presentation by our CEO or one of our executives and 20 minutes of questions, well do the math. That would be 20 slides. If we were required to edit, then we would employ zero-based budgeting; if we add one, then one has to come out. And we were mindful about how much information was contained in each slide. A fire-hose approach does not work with PowerPoint.

And speaking of presentations, you need to get off to a good start with points that have the audience nodding in agreement with a speaker who projects with real enthusiasm and energy. Nothing bores an audience quicker than someone who stands behind a podium reading the text in a monotone voice. Instead strap on the lavaliere mike, walk around the stage, engage the audience, use the graphics as prompts (don’t read the graphics; the audience can do that for themselves).

And remember that most humans do not want to be lectured to. They want information and they want the opportunity to question authority. They want to engage in a conversation. Develop your message. Figure out how long it will take, really take, to deliver your core message. Think of it this way, say what you need to say not what you want to say. And then go out and say it.

And maybe you can do it in 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30-point type at a minimum. Deliver your message. Take questions. And then exit stage right to applause ringing in your ears.

Editor’s Note: I am proud to serve as Kelli Matthews’ teaching assistant for “Principles of PR”again this spring at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. I am also pleased to be one of her nearly 5,000 Twitter disciples.

http://twitter.com/#!/kmatthews

http://www.prosintraining.com

http://sxsw.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USA_Today

www.lsilogic.com

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