Death by PowerPoint takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to the unfortunate tale of William Henry Harrison, our nation’s ninth president. Harrison was elected to the presidency in 1841, back when there was something called the Whig party and everyone lived without electricity. At 68, he was the oldest president elected to office until Ronald Reagan, and he’s mostly remembered for giving the worst inaugural speech ever–– a speech that directly resulted in his death.You see, Harrison delivered the longest inaugural address in history, reading over 8,000 words that clocked in at over two hours. The inauguration was on a cold, overcast day in March and he delivered it sans overcoat, hat or gloves. Unsurprisingly, he caught a cold that he couldn’t shake, which eventually escalated to pneumonia. And so, our ninth president died just 32 days after his terrible, awful, no good speech.Though the advent of the computer was more than a century away, William Henry Harrison’s unfortunate fate encompasses the two most typical elements of Death by PowerPoint: It was ridiculously long and inexplicably boring.
A presentation or speech that clocks in at over two hours is almost laughable, especially in this day and age. One can only imagine what Harrison’s audience was thinking (expletives come to mind). Hopefully they hadn’t made other plans for that March day, and hopefully they’d come more appropriately dressed than Harrison.
Keep your presentations short and to the point. They say that the average person’s attention span is 18 minutes, which is probably on the generous side, so aim for brevity. Harrison’s speech was supposed to be something like 20 minutes long, and it goes without saying that if it had been that short, he probably wouldn’t have come down with pneumonia in the first place.
Bored to Death
Much of the 8,000 words Harrison spoke that day were about ancient Roman history. Granted, it was 1841 and maybe that was a more relevant topic at the time, but it’s a good bet that Harrison’s audience wasn’t expecting an extensive history lesson when they showed up on Inauguration Day. Shouldn’t a new president spend most of his Inaugural Address speaking about the country that elected him?
Don’t bore your audience to death. Always present on a topic that is relevant and engaging to the members in your audience. Think of their desires before your own. You may be able to wax poetic for 2 hours about the new iPhone 5, but that’s not relevant if your audience is a room full of doctors (or most other professions for that matter). Make sure you answer each audience member’s inevitable concern: “What’s in it for me?”
How to be a Presentation God
Avoid poor William Henry Harrison’s unfortunate fate by attending our free webinar, How to Be a Presentation God on Wednesday, October 24 at 2 pm EST. During the session, you’ll learn everything you need to know to build, design and deliver an epic presentation. Your speaker will be Scott Schwertly, our CEO at Ethos3, a presentation design agency located in Nashville, TN. Sign up today and get ready to change the world with your next presentation.
About Maggie Summers
Maggie Summers is the resident blogger and content writer at Ethos3 – a leader in presentation design and training based in Nashville, TN. She takes pride in empowering presenters through her knowledge and passion for presentations and powerful storytelling.
Taken from the kind people at Knoodle – http://www.knoodle.com/blog/death-powerpoint-1841