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The 3 Gs of a good presentation

Don't underestimate the power of a good presentation -- especially as an IT executive, said Charles Hooper, BI consultant at BIAlytics and author of 59 Minutes to Great Storytelling. At the recent Real Business Intelligence conference in Cambridge, Mass., Hooper sat down with SearchCIO staff to relay tips for crafting and delivering a smart and persuasive presentation. In this video interview, Hooper lays out the "three Gs" of a good presentation and explains why all presenters should perform what he calls a "premortem."

What are the three Gs of a good presentation?

Charles Hooper: The grab is where you walk out on stage or you sit down in front of your audience, and you get their attention quickly. Current studies have shown you have eight seconds to do that. Ask a question or state a fact. Either one is something the audience wants to learn about. They want the answer to the question. They want to know where that fact came from. Now, you have their attention.

The guts is that logical step-by-step progression from the start of your story through to the end, right before the "gotcha." The guts has to be slow, methodical, sequential and/or step-by-step.

They need to phrase the 'gotcha' in such a way as to force the audience to give away how they've taken in the presentation.

The gotcha at the end is when you make your final request. That's when you look your audience in the eye. Typically, a CIO is trying to get a decision out of someone or, if they're speaking to Wall Street or the media, it's either a decision or a favorable report. They need to phrase their gotcha in such a way that they get feedback right then, right there as to what's going to happen. If it's a bad report coming back from the media, they can adjust. But they need to phrase their close. If they just look someone in the eye and say, "Okay. Thanks for having me" and walk away, they have no time to adjust. They need to phrase the gotcha in such a way as to force the audience to give away how they've taken in the presentation.

As far as which is more important, give each one a third. If you don't grab their attention, you're going to lose. If you blow the guts, you're going to lose. If you don't have the right gotcha, you're going to lose. So, one-third each. Do it all right.

What is a presentation premortem and how is it helpful?

Hooper: I call it a "reversed postmortem." Postmortem is when someone's died and an expert goes in and figures out what caused their death. The premortem says, "I'm going to figure out what might kill my presentation before I give it." In the business world, you are typically building your presentation with a team. It can be a formal team where you all work together, or it can be an informal team when you've had to go out and contact other people for help with information, but it's still a team effort. The premortem says, "Practice your routine. Practice the whole presentation in front of the audience that knows you the best: Your team that helped put it together."

There's always someone on that team -- and you've all seen it -- that sits there and says, "Well, that's not going to work, but I'm a team player so I'm not going to say anything." That's the death of the presentation. You have to put the team in a position to have to listen to your presentation and [provide feedback.] Tell them, "You must find something wrong or you have failed." Now, those team members go, "Oh, I'm a team player. I know what's wrong. This won't work and here's why." They've probably been thinking about it. Do the premortem. I've seen it work for the last 15 years. I've never seen it cause a problem.

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