3 Reasons to Throw Away Your PowerPoint

This post was written by John White on Mon, 14 Dec 2009 11:00:55 +0000
Posted Under: presentations

throw-away-powerpoint-2861702375_9a9c2b6844There is an art to writing slide decks that support your presentation, and an art to presenting without a slide deck. Hire a writer who can help you with both.

Have you ever seen a slide deck get in the way of a presentation? Your own presentation, perhaps?

You’re standing in front of forty people delivering an animated presentation, when it dawns on you that the members of your audience are not engaged. At first they ogle the screen and leaf through your handouts. As your presentation goes on, some of them pick up their phones, check e-mail and surf a bit. Finally, you begin to read a message on a few faces: “All right, we’ve got the deck with your information. May we go now?” If you could read their tweets, you would probably confirm that they’ve checked out (and are telling people about it in real time).

Disadvantages of a Slide Deck

  1. PC logistics are against you. Your goal is to convey a message between two parties: yourself and the audience. Like it or not, the laptop, the remote control and the screen get involved as well, even if you’re fortunate enough that they’re all behaving properly.
  2. Your audience is reading the screen instead of reading you. You lose eye contact each time there’s a change on the screen. For that matter, by clicking from one slide to the next, you are the one deliberately sending people’s attention away from your on-stage presence.
  3. The presence of a slide deck induces – in fact, rewards – laziness. If I don’t have to do any work, I probably won’t remember your message for very long. “Can you send me a copy of the slide deck?” means, “I’m not engaged right now, so send it to me and I’ll ignore it later.”

Quit doing too much for your audiences. Try throwing away your PowerPoint™. Try delivering a “self-propelled” presentation.

Presenting without a Slide Deck

How are you going to pull this off? You’ll need to engage the audience in other ways.

  1. Carry the structure in your oral delivery, not in bullet points. You have created a good presentation when you don’t need no stinkin’ bullets because your structure is obvious and your message is clear. The audience gets it, because your quotes are compelling and you’re first-second-thirding the information straight into their brains. (Caution: This may mean that you’re finished in ten minutes instead of 45. Then what?)
  2. Feeling your oats? Tell them there are no handouts (“Socrates never used them”), or that your dog ate your homework, and that they’ll need to take their own notes. If you’re doing a good job as a presenter, they’ll jot their own notes. Now that’s valuable content.
  3. Reinforce your points with interactive exercises instead of charts on the wall.
    • Turn your delivery of data into a quiz; e.g., “Hummer sold 65,000 units in 2006 in the U.S. How many did it sell in 2009?” (answer: 8700).
    • Get the audience members involved by piping up with anecdotes that support or refute your points.
    • Pause halfway into your presentation and say, “Is there anybody in the audience who is completely lost? If so, then I’m not doing my job successfully and I need to know how to fix it.”

You’ll need to tell your writer, “I’m going it alone, so create me a presentation that doesn’t need a slide deck.”

Will she be up to the task? Have you ever done a presentation without a slide deck? How did it go?

John White of venTAJA Marketing posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it.

photo credit: mecookie

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