My Secret Weapon for Giving Insanely Great HR Presentations (and 34 Things to Avoid)!

by Alan Collins

Public speaking and giving talks in your HR area of expertise is one of the fastest ways for you to promote yourself and advance your HR career.

I was reminded of this when I was recently asked to give a 30 minute talk to a group of 20 senior HR executives in Chicago.

Since I was only given a few days notice, I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare.

So I followed my “simple formula” for giving great 30 minute presentations…

Speak for 22 minutes straight from the heart.
No slides.
No handouts.
No flip charts.
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse beforehand.
And if you must open with a joke, let it be on you.

I’ve done a lot of talks over the years.  What I’ve discovered is that the best presentations are simple, authentic, genuine and leave the audience wanting more of you, not less.

And, one of the best things I ever did for my HR career is becoming a “good” public speaker.

Notice I said good, NOT great!

Let me be clear: no one will ever mistake me for being the next Tony Robbins, Reagan, JFK, MLK or Oprah (especially her Golden Globes speech, WOW!)

However, I’m convinced that any HR professional can give terrific presentations if they’re willing to speak, prepare in advance and have a passion for their topic.

The best HR leaders seek out opportunities to speak and enthusiastically share their message all the time.

The superstars in our profession give presentations at offsite meetings, team presentations, big annual meetings, or to HR associations.

Or they lead college recruiting presentations, orientation sessions, tele-classes or webinars.

They use these presentations to promote their topic, their organization…and yes, promote themselves and their HR career.

Guidelines For Giving
Absolutely Horrible Presentations

The biggest presentation mistake I see HR professionals make is waiting until the last minute to prepare.

They rush to throw together a PowerPower presentation relying on it as their “crutch” to bail them out.  You can tell who these HR presenters are because they follow the guidelines below…(note: #16 & #28 are my personal favorites):

1. They dive right to their first slide – with no inspiring intro to grab your attention

2. They drown you in slides — say 1 slide/minute (or 60 slides per 1 hour speech)

3. They focus on facts and data – no interesting stories, anecdotes and examples

4. They use 12 lines of single-spaced, bullets per slide

5. They don’t use images or pictures on the slides, just lots of text

6. They read each slide word for word

7. They read the slide twice to make their points

8. They make an excuse about small text, “I know you can’t read this, but…”

9. They use lots of animations, especially twirls, fly-ins and spinning words

10. They make the text so small people in the back can’t see it

11. They turn their whole back to the audience when looking at a slide

12. They use that annoying laser pen

13. They make crazy little circles with that annoying laser pen

14. They make zig-zags with that annoying laser pen

15. They have no gestures, just stand there with arms dangling down

16. They wave their arms around like Michael Jackson singing Billie Jean

17. Or they don’t move at all

18. Or they pace like a lion in a cage

19. They stand in front of the screen (letting the words display on their face)

20. That tell jokes, that aren’t funny or are inappropriate

21. They walk with their hands in their pockets

22. They fold their arms

23. They don’t sound passionate about their own topic

24. They don’t engage the audience

25. They memorize their slides and sound like a robot

26. They put two or three charts on one slide

27. They use as many builds as humanly possible on each slide

28. They point to a slide with their middle finger

29. They point at the audience with any finger

30. They insert a video with poor sound quality

31. They use lots of word art and slanted text

32. They use child-like clip art and lots and lots of cartoons

33. They never repeat the agenda so people can follow their ideas

34. They always go over, never under their allotted time

I don’t know about you.  But nobody I know ever walked out of one of these presentations inspired, sold, or well-informed.

They just left bored out of their freaking mind saying silently to themselves: “I wonder how long that presenter is going to keep that great HR job she has.”

Obviously, I’m building up to a better way.

Tips For Giving
Insanely Great Presentations

If you must give a presentation — and yes, if you must use PowerPoint — the video below will show you some better guidelines to follow…compliments of the late, great Steve Jobs:


You may not be the ex-CEO of Apple, but if you’re an HR leader (or an aspiring one), you must look and sound like a leader in every talk you give.
There’s too much riding on your performance — your ability to influence others, your personal impact, your image and your career advancement in HR.

And if you’re drop dead serious about taking your HR game to the next level, start taking steps today to polish up your presentation skills.

Besides, why should you settle for just giving average presentations…when you can give insanely great ones!

Onward.

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Hit me up with your comments on this article by CLICKING HERE.

Want more strategies for advancing your career in Human Resources…especially those your boss won’t tell you about?  Then check out:  UNWRITTEN HR RULES: 21 Strategies For Attaining Awesome Career Success in Human Resources.  You can download details HERE.

About the author: Alan Collins is Founder of Success in HR and the author of a variety of best selling books for HR professionals  including UNWRITTEN HR RULES.   He was formerly Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses.

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38 Responses to “My Secret Weapon for Giving Insanely Great HR Presentations (and 34 Things to Avoid)!”

  1. Al Duff Says:

    Alan: This is well put together.

    I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Al Duff

  2. Zach Nold Says:

    Alan, the experience you have gained from your amazing career could help anyone ramp up quickly. I was on a panel discussion at a HRMAC event last year covering the topic of networking.

    Being on a panel discussion showcased my skills as an expert in the industries and definitely generated a lot of interst. Coupling personality with the mechanics of an amazing presentation would definitely raise anyones game. Thank you for sharing your expert opinion in your book.

    Zach

  3. Dr. Paul G. Schempp Says:

    Alan: As a person who often speaks professionally, I’ve seen my share of speakers (and made my share of mistakes) over the years. You have put, in an easy to read essay, the critical components of a great presentation. The formula really isn’t all that complicated, is it? The suggestion to rehearse, rehearse and rehearse some more can’t be overstated. Thank you for taking the time to help us all become better speakers.

  4. Glenn Powell Says:

    Alan,

    You are right on! There is nothing – absolutely nothing – more boring than watching a presenter read the powerpoint slide bullet points. In most cases, using a lot of slides is just an excuse for poor preparation. The presenter uses them as reminders of the details of the presentation.

    As you indicated, if you must use slides, keep the slides and the bullet points to a minimum. The audience can read the words, the presenter must tell the audience why they should care about the slide’s message.

    My most successful presentations were made to persuade a group to adopt a particular point of view or to accept a new idea. I’ve found that the maximum number of points that you can successfully make is three (3). Anything more than that, the audience will probably forget.

    Lastly, to echo your “formula” — no slides, handouts, or flipcharts. Why would you want your audience to look at your props — they should be concentrating on YOU.

    Great subject, great video, great points! Keep it coming.

    Glenn

  5. Jennifer V. Miller Says:

    Timely topic: I was just discussing this with a colleague who had returned from a deadly Power Point presentation. He said the entire audience was nodding off because they’d given up trying to follow the 10 point fonts on the screen. Your advice is solid and practical for all professionals, not just those in HR.

    WHEN will people learn that a Power Point presentation alone will not make an effective presentation?

  6. Is It Time To Step Up Your Game in HR? | Success in HR Says:

    […] on a recent HR project you got rave reviews on?  Do you blog?  Not a writer, ok – can you speak? Could you put together a short presentation that showcases your expertise?  Do you already have a […]

  7. Stuart C Baxter Says:

    Superb advice. It is sad to see so many great HR professional sink like stones when doing direct talks or open forum presentations. Sage advice..

  8. Mohamed Elnaggar Says:

    I’m one of those who hate public speaking, despite that I do it with near perfection point…the fear that I might get it wrong makes me do it and redo it imagining all moves and the reactions of my audience, and how I would respond to them. Alan, this is one of the best, easy put together, I hope everyone enjoyed it the way I did.

  9. sandya Says:

    Dear Allan,
    Your topic is nice. I enjoyed with that.

  10. Saurabh Says:

    I am sure that i does make a difference. I have been associated with Toastmasters intertnational and tremendously improved on my communication skills.

  11. Divya Says:

    Dear Allan

    Great article.. I have been following many of your articles and all presented very well.
    Looking forward for many more articles as those have been of great help to me.

  12. Carlos Gonzalez Says:

    Mr Allan Your advice is worth millions. Thank you.

  13. Tracy Peterkin, PHR Says:

    Thanks for a great article, Alan. Very timely as I am making a presentation at our area Non-Profit conference next week. Incorporating many of your helpful hints…However, I do enjoy a bit of child-like clip art now and then!

  14. Melinda Schmidt Says:

    Very informative. As a soon to be graduating HR student it is reassuring that I have not made too many of your mistakes in the PowerPoints I have given. Also, I knew that joining Toastmasters would be helpful in my career goals. I enjoy public speaking but we can all use such great tips on how to do it well. Thank you.

  15. Joe Fernandez Says:

    Alan,

    Thanks for putting together such useful tips to make an effective presentation. What I fully endorse is your emphasizing Passion in one’s presentation, apart from other useful tips, because unless one is is convinced about what one is presenting, he/she cannot make an effective presentation. After all, all leaders need to be convincing speakers and passion goes with it. Thanks once again

  16. ianbrownlee Says:

    I agree with some elements in this article. However, you can find more up-to-date information here: What make an excellent presenter? A new, original and polemic article by Ian Brownlee. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2guX2-77

    There are more articles dealing with communication at: ianbrownlee.wordpress.com

  17. jayb Says:

    Alan–Again, good topic and good points. How often has the presenter just took a photo of a written page and presented it. Or, I use to go to a monthly financial update by the CFO, and ALWAYS he would photo his Balance Sheets and other Financials and throw it onto a slide, and ALWAYS apologize that the type is too small to read. The message really was–I do not give a dam about the audience.
    Too many times I have been at presentations that have 30 slides for a 20 minute presentation, and nothing is going to stop the “speaker” from going through his presentation and reading word-by-word to you. And what is amazing is most of these people continue doing the same wrong things time and time againl.

  18. Blossom Says:

    Dear Allan,

    Another thought provoking tool from your tool kit to help HR professionals be the best in our field. Keep them coming!!

  19. Phylli Chen Says:

    Dear Allen,

    Really nice sharing, look forward to your next article. I’ve always learned a lot from your great advice.

  20. Leslie DeMerville Says:

    Alan:
    Do you think that perhaps a lot of “Presentors” (not just HR folks) do all that you described because they are (1) unprepared as you state, (2) not passionate about the subject matter and (3)out of FEAR?? Aren’t most of the poor public speaking habits you describe arise out sheer panic or fear of public speaking in general?
    Thank you-
    Leslie DeMerville, BSc, MSc…Labor Rels

  21. ianbrownlee Says:

    Here are some additional articles that cover this area:

    – Making presentations sitting down= Less influence & more problems. Fastlink: http://wp.me/p2guX2-x

    – Oh no! Not ANOTHER boring company presentation!:
    shortlink: http://wp.me/p2guX2-4q

    – “An Elephant in the Room” # 2: The Hidden Dangers of Interrupting during Presentations.
    http://wp.me/p2guX2-2d

    For many more additional articles visit: ianbrownlee.wordpress.com

  22. Alan Says:

    Leslie, I would agree — and I think your points 1and 2 are the key to addressing the fear — especially your point 1.

  23. Kelly Says:

    Alan,
    I always love your articles and tips. This was great.

    I do have one question that I struggle with and would love some tips from all you and your amazing followers. How do you keep some of the boring and redundant HR topics fresh and meaningful? For example, the annual anti-harassment trainings etc.

    Thanks again Alan for another great topic and I look forward to everyones feedback.

  24. Alan Says:

    Kelly, my suggestion would be to have include in your HR topic tons of:
    –stories (disguise the names)
    –anecdotes
    –case examples
    –cartoons
    –videos
    –guest speakers
    –industry experts
    –etc.

    My experience is that people tire of hearing dry concepts, principles, guidelines and to-do’s quickly. Whatever you can do to turn “education” into “entertainment” (without losing your message) will be most appreciated by the audience.

    That’s just one thought.

    Anxious to hear others.

    Alan

  25. Terri Black Says:

    Alan,
    Wonderful article it reminded me of times I have made some of the same mistakes. But, that is how we learn and grow. I would have to say # 23. Don’t sound passionate or interested in their own material have to be the most dangerous mistakes of all. If you present yourself as being bored with your own information how could you expect the audience to gleam anything from what you are saying? If you show passion and sincere love for what you’re presenting, the audience can ignore some of the more minor infractions you may be displaying. The key word is “Presenting” not spewing, not mumbling, and not dictating. We are to present ourselves and our material with a passion. Passion can hold your audience even when you are fumbling. Actors practice their lines in order to perform. We need to do the same be prepared and show our passion.

  26. Arti Vyas Says:

    Allan,
    Thanks a ton.Very useful & timely input on Power Point Presentation. Your article have always covered aspects which i never thought would even exist. Keep doing such great jobs.

    Thanks
    Arti Vyas

  27. Lisa McSharry Says:

    Alan,

    I periodically teach ‘Presenting with Impact’. You’re list is fantastic! While I address about 33% of your list, the additional points will definitely add value.

    Thank you again,

    Lisa McSharry

  28. Wesley McKenzie Says:

    Great post, Alan. Thank you. Sad to admit I’ve caught myself doing a few of these things. I do always try to rehearse and time myself in the process. And I always try to make it interactive; I figure if I’m boring myself, then I’ve certainly lost the audience!

    I often gave presentations in grad school with no notes (I was well-rehearsed), and the class often commented how mine were always good. One particular instructor asked them why they thought mine were good, and then he pointed out that it was because I was prepared and knew my topic. (By the way, I picked that up from a former pastor, who always preached without notes. He NEVER lost his congregation’s attention!)

  29. Syed Adeel Khalid Says:

    I am really impressed by the kind of articles you write Allan. This one is something I was really looking for and I agree with all the points. I am sure many people need to think again before giving a presentation; because usually they end up being boring and loose interest of their audience.

  30. Diana Says:

    Thank you Alan! Great article, so much learning through such useful/valuable practical examples/videos. You are so enriching and empowering!

  31. Zeta Ziova Says:

    Alan,
    what i read is so true!!!!
    Do you know what is missing from most of HR colleagues in their presentations? PASSION. That’s what is missing. Speaking from the heart and engage your audience, needs passion for what you are talking about…
    My best presentation was with 1 slide and i video, holding a speech of about an hour and nobody wanted to leave the room!
    So, trigger us more with inspirational topics! We all needed them!
    Warmest Regards,
    Z.

  32. Jennifer Says:

    Wow! Alan, you are always on point. I always look forward to your articles. You paint a very clear picture of the Presenter/ PowerPoint we all dread. I definitely don’t want to be that boring Presenter that puts grown adults to sleep ( after all it is not a lullaby 😀)

    I will print your list and hang it on my wall to remind me to always put in extra effort to make a great presentation.

  33. Nahid Islam Bithi Says:

    This is an awesome I must say Alan. These things usually we do unconsciously some time! It will remind me not to do further. Thank u so much 🙂

  34. sachin n naidu Says:

    thank you Alan. i just join HR division and i fully agree that many HR’s needs to prepare well before making a presentation. i realy felt that the message from the article is so empowering.

    warmest regards

  35. Hanna Says:

    Great points. As HR leaders who have seen and experienced many unique situations we have plenty to share. Our ability to be passionate and relatable to a diverse audience enables us to connect and engage spectators which makes our message all the more interesting. I was the presenter with the slides and graphs, etc. and had a situation where the projector was broken. I had to improvise and I received more compliments from that presentation than any I had ever done. From that point forward I started speaking from my heart and left handouts summarizing my presentation. I believe there is a distinct correlation between the amount of fun you have as a presenter and the amount of information your audience takes away.

  36. Rahul Mehandiratta Says:

    Dear Mr. Alen,

    Lovely article once again.Inspiring, insightful and clearing all the myths over making great presentations.

    You always bring something really innovative and impact-full. Sometime we really work more on what is not required then what is required and miss the buss.

    Your article is really helpful to all HR professionals.

    Keep sharing.

    Best Regards,
    Rahul Mehandiratta

  37. Denis Nicole Says:

    Thanks for another great article and it was a pleasure to meet you at your Detroit SHRM presentation!

  38. Susan T. Musumeci Says:

    Alan-I’m guessing you don’t like those little red laser pens (hehe). Thoroughly enjoyed this article. It brought to mind my presentations (which I like doing) and wondering how to improve. Thanks for the insight.

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