Say It With Presentations

How do I deliver presentations that are interesting, inspiring, and, most of all, successful? How do I go beyond traditional charts and text pages to create gripping, memorable presentations?

Two-hundred and fifty MBA students, Harvard undergraduates, Kennedy students, executive education students, and communications students from Emerson College came to Spangler Auditorium to learn just that. The second event in the Public Speaking Club’s Outstanding Speaker Series attracted audience members who do not often visit the Spangler Auditorium. A coordinator from the Exec Ed program for instance was very interested in exposing the senior leaders at the program to one of the world’s best practitioners in presentation skills. In addition, about thirty students from Emerson College-located in downtown Boston and specializing in the study of communications-braved the green and red lines of the T to see find out how to “say it with presentations.”

As part of its ongoing aim of helping students improve their presentation skills, the Public Speaking Club continued its Outstanding Speaker Series with a session by Gene Zelazny, Director of Visual Communications for McKinsey & Company. Gene has been in the firm since 1961 and is regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on creating and delivering compelling presentations. His first book, Say It With Charts, is available in six languages.

Gene Zelazny’s one-hour session provided an attentive audience with insights and techniques for delivering great presentations, summarized in three main points:

1. Begin and end with your recommendation, and spend the rest of your time supporting it.
2. Anticipate the three toughest questions from the members of your audience who have the most at stake.
3. Adapt to the new world of “virtual presentations” delivered over the Internet.

According to Gene, the PowerPoint presentation is just a visual tool to assist you in your presentation, and must be considered as such. Thus, speakers are challenged to minimize the distractions that visuals may cause from the presentation itself.

Note: The Public Speaking Club routinely features outstanding speakers to help HBS students learn from the world’s best communicators. Email the Public Speaking Club’s Marketing VP, Amit Rai, at if you have any questions.

October 30, 2006
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