We have had our eyes collectively glued to screens large and small following the World Cup this summer.
I was watching too, but since I really don’t enjoy soccer, I was seeing something else. Now that the the dust has settled and the winner are home with their prize, I can reveal to you what the World Cup can teach us about… making better presentations.
Let’s start from how the victory was recorded by the press, TV and websites for history to come.
Unfortunately this is all a lie. I saw another World Cup, and so did you.
Let’s analyse these pictures: in those images you can see human beings, single them out, distinguish between them. You can see how much effort they are putting in their action. You often see their faces and through those faces peek into their deep emotions.
These images are powerful in the sense that – even if you don’t care about Germany or about soccer – you can see and feel either the athletic prowess or even just the human emotion. These images are universally relatable.
Unfortunately for most of the time our TV screens have been filled with a different picture. Let’s analyse it for a second.
It’s a wide shot of the field taken from a high vantage point divided into three sections.
The lower half is the playing field, the middle is the strip of displays where the sponsor messages rotate. The upper part of the image is usually composed of stadium seating or facilities.
The ball moves and the shot tracks it, but the image is wide enough for us to see the strategy behind the game: who is where, who can pass to whom, is it offside, etc.
On top of this layer we see a TV channel logo (an ident in TV lingo) somewhere on a corner, on the top left a second identifier telling us the teams, the score and the time. The lower third of the screen is occasionally used to display longer text information and match stats.
I have been staring at this screen for many matches without seeing human beings, rather match stick men, looking at horrible 3d graphics on top of the screen, seeing no emotion, no sense of athletic performance and boring my eyes out of their orbits.
Why does the live edition of the world cup suck so much when it’s compared with the memorialised version we have just seen above?
One might think that the problem lies with the fact that it’s actually happening live. That could be the issue: it’s hard to predict where the ball will go, so better keep a wide emotionless, athletically neutral shot.
But wait, we haven’t asked an important questions: who is the live production done for? Whose orders are they following? The answer in both cases is: FIFA.
FIFA is sponsored by brands so the broadcast is geared towards giving these sponsors as much screen time as possible. This is – quite simply – the reason why during the live broadcast you will rarely see an image like the ones we see in the media the day after the event is over.
Not because it’s unfeasible during the live match. But because it does not provide enough screen time to the sponsors.
As usual we, the public, are not the customers: we are being sold something. And in the process of selling to us, the sponsors make our experience worse than it could be.
But wait, this is starting to sound like a pointless rant against the World Cup.
Instead the interesting part is what we can learn from all these errors and apply to our next presentation!
1. Dump your company logo!
The identification of the channel that sits on top of the image on the TV screens has a history. And probably it’s still justified by a simple fact: our remote controls have horrible interfaces.
But you are using a state of the art presentation medium so you don’t need to have any identifier constantly on screen.
I am talking about your company logo. Drop it from the template, delete it from your slides.
You can feature it only when it has a specific meaning.
If you display it in the first/last slide of your presentation then it stands for “I belong to ACME CORP” or “The following message is brought to you by ACME CORP”.
Otherwise you could let your audience find your company logo in the middle of your presentation. In this other case it says “This happened at ACME CORP”.
Just don’t display it on all the slides.
2. Don’t focus on your pitch, focus on your content!
Your audience doesn’t want to hear your pitch, as much as I don’t care about seeing the logos of VISA, McDonalds and Yingli Solar (WTF) on the side of the pitch.
Your audience feels the same way about your pitch, so make sure that the content is front and center at all times. Once you have shown enough content and enough emotion – as exemplified during the World Cup by the crazy faces of Thomas Müller – then you can let a bit of your sales content seep through, but just a trickle.
3. USE BIG FONTS!
I have always seen the Word Cup on the biggest screens and it has always been impossible to read the little timing clock or read the match stats.
Don’t make the same mistake: always use big fonts and optimise for who is sitting in the back row.
More info in this super short video.
4. Plan your layout wisely
photo credit: Bill Robbins https://twitter.com/billrobbins
Germany’s content (the 7 goal scorers) simply exceeded the tiny space devoted to this kind of content by the standard layout. In the middle of the tv screen this tiny scroll bar appeared next to the scorers names creating an unwanted comedy effect. Design your layout for your content, but don’t forget the edge cases.
5. Choose the content that you show at the end wisely because it will shape the memory of your presentation
Even if on television we mostly spent time watching at the whole field, we will remember the image of the team holding the cup.
This is how memories are formed: our brain takes what we see, know and feel at the end of an experience and uses that to fix the memory.
This is why you should keep your best content for the end of your talk.
For the same reason you should help your audience connect the dots by summarising your presentation.
6. Deliver it live!
Don’t be like the FIFA production that keeps the best images for the day after. Don’t hold back. Deliver all your best content (complete with emotions) directly to your audience.
Give your best in the moment. If it’s being captured on video this will show. But don’t perform for the replay, perform for the live audience.
I’m glad that Germany won the world cup and I’m also happy that, at least before the next Euro Cup begins, I will not have to sit through another soccer match. I admire the athletic abilities, the strategy and the hard work that goes into the game on the field. These matches are – in my opinion – made of great content really badly presented.
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