I’m talking with my evaluation and non-evaluation friends to learn more about great presentations as part of the American Evaluation Association’s new Potent Presentations Initiative (P2i).

I asked Herb Baum to reflect upon some of the best presenters he’s seen and heard. What makes these presentations so great? I hope you enjoy reading Herb’s input.

– Ann Emery


“I think one of the best presentations I attended was by Edward Tufte. One of the reasons his presentation was so good is that he does not use PowerPoint. His belief is that graphics are there to enhance our presentation, but not be the presentation. He is a graphics person and I am not, so I still use PowerPoint. My slides are brief and raise issues for discussion rather than than being the presentation. A good presenter adds to the presentation as opposed to reading what I could read on my own.

The other point about a good presenter is that they occasionally throw in relevant humor. Beginning  with a joke to get people’s attention does not work. Rather, as the presentation is progressing, tell an anecdote about how difficult it was to obtain a response from somebody, or how you blundered interpreting the data.

The presenter has to engage the audience. Throw out relevant questions and wait for a response. Ask the audience about their experience with the same.

I think the last point I would make is do not present results unless they are relevant to the point. At evaluation conferences, I am tired of hearing results demonstrating the effectiveness of a given program. I much prefer hearing why it was challenging to measure the effectiveness of the program and what was done to overcome those challenges.”

– Herb Baum