How many times have you been asked to send your presentation in advance? If you’re asked to send it, do you? If you do, what on earth do you do when you get there?

If you develop your content while sitting at PowerPoint (or Keynote or Prezi), which is a behaviour I encourage everyone to change, you have some choices to make.

Your slides are probably your notes, and your notes are probably detailed enough for you to understand them. Unfortunately, by extension, anyone else reading those slides can probably understand a significant portion of what you’ll talk about—before you get to the room or long after you’ve left.

If that’s the case, why would that same information be presented to the group when everyone gets together? If people can get the point without you there, what value do you add by being there?

All presentations should be receiver-driven

These are questions I’ve pondered for a number of years. I’ve been in the audience for this process, and more often than not it ends up becoming a complete waste of my time.

No wonder people use their smartphones during meetings and presentations. They’re trying to get some value out of their time, and if they haven’t already read the slides, they can read them later.

The alternative? Two choices, really.

The first is to send milestone slides in advance of the meeting, conference or presentation. The example on this page comes from a Present With Easeconference presentation I’ve delivered hundreds of times. When it’s on screen, I make the point that presentations, like conversations, must not only two-way, but receiver-driven as well. In other words, the speed at which information goes from sender to receiver should be driven by the receiver’s needs, not the sender’s.

Anecdotes, examples, stories, comparisons and questions from the audience reinforce the concepts discussed during this section, thereby allowing the audience to integrate long-term memory and working memory into understanding. And that’s when face-to-face communication works.

The second alternative is to send the detailed slides, then do one of two things when everyone gets together. Either recap the written document in a five- to ten-minute oral presentation (without showing these notes to the audience in any way), and clearly state your expected outcome (while taking questions along the way). Or, if the outcome is clear from the slides (or other form of written document), simply ask the group: “Are there any questions about the document I sent?”

If there are, answer them succinctly. If not, move on.

And you won’t give the smartphones a chance to even warm up.