I was doing presentation skill training with one of my clients. I mentioned that I thought PowerPoint is one of the worst tools for presenting and is almost always instant audience anesthesia. A hand went up in the back of the room (as it always does) The person said “ But…I don’t think you understand the policy in our organizations is that we have to have PowerPoint for every presentation, and they are all formatted and branded the same.” Ugh. Why are we locking people in a PowerPoint prison? When did that become a requirement? Why?
I am a professional speaker, and I want to share with you some thoughts about how to give a great presentation. Most of the ideas are as much about what you shouldn’t do as much as what you should.
- Ban the PowerPoint. Please stop using PowerPoint for presentations. Remember that giving a presentation is about communication and conversation, not presentation. PowerPoint was always intended to illustrate the key points not be all of the points! It’s not about having ninety slides. Presenters commit all the cardinal sins of presenting when they use PowerPoint. 1) They turn their backs to the audience. They are losing connection right then. 2) They read to everyone what is on the screen. Isn’t that exciting? Guess what? I am educated adult, I can read! 3) They use the slides as their script. 4) They have such complicated charts and graphs on the slides they are just incomprehensible. 5) They think that PowerPoint is their presentation and it not true. 6) The graphics are so small they can’t be read. 6) They turn down the lights making the room dark and making everyone sleepy. Give them a few page hand- out and ban the PowerPoint. Please, stop the madness.
- Burn the podium. The next best way of disconnecting from the audience is that darn gigantic piece of a tree we call a podium. It is presentation poison in my view. Yes, I know it worked for your high school principle at the assembly in school, but keep in mind that was pretty awful too. Here is a brilliant idea (not) idea, let’s park our body behind a tree and be cut off from communicating with the audience by standing in the same place and not moving around. I know many people who say “I have to stand there at that block of wood because: 1) That is where the microphone is, and people have to be able to hear me 2) I have to have a place to rest my notes.” Welcome to the new world- we have portable wireless microphones now. You can carry your notes and lay them in many places. We do not and should not be tied to a podium. Watch any great speaker and guess what? They will not stand there- no they move around. If I were king of the world, I would burn them all in a celebratory, massive bonfire, marking the end of boring presentations forever.
- Entertain them or lose them quickly. Here is something I think today is a requirement. When you give a presentation, you have to entertain them, or audience members will check out quickly, and you will lose them. We live in a world where people can be entertained at the push of a button on any device, and then they are forced to sit in a room and listen to some boring presentation. Please don’t be that person. Use stories, analogies, and examples that are interesting and entertaining. Engage the audience with questions and answers. Talk about what they care about and the issues involved. Make the presentation fun for you and them.
If you do these three things- you will be so much better than most other presenters. If you decide to be better, to be different, then you will automatically separate yourself from all the same old deadly dull presentations that people have to endure every day.