i recently finished up a very busy three week stretch of travel which included two industry conferences i was invited to present my wares at. both of those conferences followed a working group format with a lot of quick presentations about a lot of different topics in a very short amount of time. from working group to working group, albuquerque to monterey, one thing stayed constant: i had no idea what people were talking about.

what was worse than being stranded in denver’s airport after a redeye flight cancellation fiasco was being stranded in presentation after presentation filled with slides of information and no real message.for some reason, it seemed to me that people forgot a very key aspect of any presentation: a clear, understandable purpose.

there’s no doubt in my mind that those people who presented their work at these conferences are smart, talented, ambitious people. i was honestly surrounded by some brilliant people — leaders in their field with more certifications and degrees of higher learning than they have the wall space for.but knowing what you’re talking about and being able to pass that information on to others is an entirely separate matter.

it’s imperative that you reach your audience. why are they there? what’s in it for them? you have to convey what you’re talking about, where is it going, and why they should spend the next 30 minutes listening to you speak. you have to connect.

each of my presentations started off with a reason for listening [‘this is going to solve these specific problems that our clients are having’], and each ended with a call to action [‘this is just one example, and it’s only the start. let’s build on this together’]. i was shocked to see just how few followed the same approach and just how many presentations i felt lost in.

we’re better than this, and there’s no shortage of resources available to help us improve.

even if you don’t give presentations in your day-to-day work, read these books or any of the hundreds of articles online devoted to making presentations better. at some point in time, the lessons you learn are going to be valuable; i promise you that.