Could you drive your car, speak on the phone, eat a pizza, read the newspaper and watch a movie all at the same time? Probably not, particularly if you're male. But that's what many audiences are expected to do all across the world, every day as presenters toil to prove how smart they are, missing the point by a country mile. Which is probably what the audience does too.
A presentation is not an opportunity to prove your intelligence or your grasp of the topic. The audience assumes these things already, which is why they came to listen to you (unless of course they were forced to!). Your job as the presenter is to package your information in a way that is easy to absorb, thus enabling your audience to make a decision based on your recommendations. It's to inform, and in all likelihood to persuade too. Sexy slides are an added bonus and can make the experience more enjoyable. But too many slides just add to the confusion.
People can only focus properly on one idea at a time. This means that once you get to the next point, the listener will move off what you were saying previously in order to keep following your current train of thought. So the logical question is – how many key points can you pile into a presentation before you completely flummox your audience? In order to make a decision, they need to understand the point – the main point, that is. And if there are too many points, your presentation becomes a mish-mash, and then logically there is no main point.
It is understood that a compelling presentation requires great delivery. But unfortunately that is not enough. Cluttered content delivered well equals a poor presentation.
So what do you need to do?
First you need to decide on the purpose of your presentation, and what the main message will be. This answers the question "why?". Everything you prepare should tie in to that main message. Next, you should strive to keep it simple. Avoid the overload that so many presenters feel obliged to dish up. Keep slides to the minimum. If some detail is a requirement, you can provide it via a handout or web link at the end. A few good stories or metaphors to illustrate your main point are much more effective, serve to engage an audience and are always appreciated.
Think about the best presentations you've experienced. You may find that they were almost always the simpler ones that were easy to follow. For the presenter, simpler presentations are easier to prepare because they're….simpler. They're also easier to rehearse, and to deliver. The audience enjoys them more. And you, the presenter, increase your chances of attaining your objective.