Thoughts on Presentations

I believe the most important aspect of my role as a CIO is communication. A mediocre strategy well articulated will produce greater results than an excellent strategy that is not understood by those that must execute and support it.

There are many communication vehicles, but those of us at the senior management level must be able to stand in front of a room with a few hundred people and deliver a 30 minute presentation that is effective and engaging.

I enjoy this aspect of my job and I am constantly seeking to get better at it. I think I am better than average, but short of where I want to be. No matter how good one gets at this, an engaging presentation requires time to craft and practice to deliver well. I can still fall on my face if I do not have enough preparation time.

Every time I start to prepare a new presentation I do so with the intent of rivaling what Steve Jobs would do. The limitations of time and talent will keep me well short of that, but that is the mindset I start with.

Most folks in the corporate world start their presentations using a PowerPoint template created by the marketing department; and, most of those templates are awful. When Steve Jobs introduced a new product did his slides have the top 1/3 reserved for a giant title? Did every slide need to be branded with the an Apple logo and tag line. Did those slide use bullet pointed lines of text which he would read to the audience? Be brave, dump your corporate PowerPoint template.

There are a couple of books that I have found helpful and would recommend to anyone wanting to become better presenters. Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen has lot of suggestions about the entire process of creating and presenting a presentation. It really shines in the guidance it gives on creating engaging slides, the kind of slides Steve Jobs would use.

Another book that I have recently begun to re-read is Granville Toogood’s The New Articulate Executive. It is filled with presentation wisdom.

If anyone has presentation tips or book recommendations I would appreciate appreciate it if you left them as a comment to this post.

Comments: 12

  1. tomcatalini March 24, 2013 at 12:10 Reply

    Great presentation and communication skills are so crucial for CIOs (and anyone who wants to be a leader). Constantly honing one’s craft in this area is absolutely essential. Fortunately, there are lots of resources. Here are two of my favorite books on the topic:

    Give your speech, change the world by Nick Morgan:

    Confessions of a public speaker by Scott Berkun:

    • hospitalcio March 24, 2013 at 12:46 Reply

      Thanks Tom, these look great. I look forward to reading them and checking out your blog.

  2. Martin Peacock March 25, 2013 at 01:10 Reply

    The presentation secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo. Discusses how to craft a presentation as a narrative. I found it a turning point. And I’m not a Jobs ‘fan’

  3. Jackie Mitchler March 25, 2013 at 12:47 Reply

    Lend Me Your Ears: All You Need to Know about Making Speeches and Presentations by Max Atkinson

  4. Jacob Sconyers March 28, 2013 at 10:19 Reply

    Edward Tufte’s “The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint” ( is a great piece on creating better slides and visuals for technical presentations. It’s excerpted almost in its entirety on his blog (

  5. Milos April 2, 2013 at 07:49 Reply

    Here is a recording of Guy Kawasaki’s presentation – funny, engaging and memorable. The takeaways are two fold, he is educating you on being “enchanting” all while practicing it himself. Quite entertaining.

    This is a bit old but nearly identical to what we heard in recently in Dallas:

  6. John Lynn - EMR and HIPAA April 10, 2013 at 13:14 Reply

    My biggest pet peeve presentation issue is when the presenter basically reads the slides to you. Pointless. I could read them on my own if that’s all you’re doing and I can read them a lot faster.

    • tomcatalini April 10, 2013 at 18:09 Reply

      So this post kicked off a bunch of thinking on my part, and a bit of research to share key presentation tips with students in a class I teach at Bentley University.

      Here are three items, 2 videos and 1 article that can really help someone to “up there game” without a lot of effort to read all the books recommended here or do lots of research and analysis. All can all be consumed in 20 minutes or less. Thought I’d share here:

      Hope you find it useful.


      • maria7z August 19, 2013 at 20:27 Reply

        Tom I’m glad to see you working this in at the college level. I didn’t have nearly enough opportunities to practice this in my academic career, before moving on to my real career. Something else we need to do to develop leaders, provide opportunities and feedback on presenting to others and engaging an audience.

        Thanks for doing your part!

  7. shalofin July 16, 2013 at 09:07 Reply

    Do you find something like PowerPoint more effective than a tool like Prezi?

  8. Krishna July 22, 2013 at 16:02 Reply

    I feel the biggest thing is that you should keep the text on slide and what you are saying in line. Also if you have too much information on a slide, it will distract a lot of people.

  9. AdamG November 13, 2013 at 17:46 Reply

    In “Blah Blah Blah” Dan Roam provides an entire framework for creating more visual communications by adding pictures that reinforce words.

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