Death By PowerPoint: What to Do When it’s You that’s Dying

Picture this – you are sitting in a room. The lights are dimmed so you can see the screen that dominates the front of the room, even more clearly.

The projector is humming ominously, hung like a sword of Damocles above your head or splitting the room down the middle.

A huddle of people are hunched over a computer trying to make the machine ‘speak’ to the projector and the USB key yield the information contained within its microscopic diodes.

There’s a hush as the screen flickers and the first of countless slides fills your vision.

Eventually the speaker starts to talk. 3 slides in you’re already confused by the morass of half discernible, bullet pointed, floated in, faded out and clip ‘arted’ information.

By slide 5 you start to lose the will to live and do what you always do when you’re bored, faced with a glimmering screen, in an over warm environment – fall asleep.

So who is really suffering death by PowerPoint?

Not the audience, they’re sleeping peacefully.

It’s the presenter.

Are you the Monkey or the Organ Grinder?

When you let PowerPoint do the driving, you miss a golden opportunity to make the personal and emotional impact needed to be influential.

If you’re letting PowerPoint get in the way of you achieving your presentation goals, the following may offer some help and insights to enable you to make the most of your professional speaking engagements.

Here are 7 Golden Rules that will ensure you don’t die at the front of the room and have a stream of people queuing for a 1-2-1 at the end.

1. Ask Yourself, Do I Really Need To Use Power Point?

PowerPoint can be an exceptional presentation tool when used well but all too often it acts as an aid memoir to the presenter, rather than deliver valuable and relevant information.

This leads to slides heavy with written content that forces your audience to read rather than listen. If you’re really concerned (and many people are) that you’ll forget what you want to say here are a couple of processes that will help you remember.

First, write out you talk in full. Re-read it and chunk it down to paragraphs. Then, from those paragraphs identify keywords and place them on a cue card and if necessary keep it in the palm of our hand. You’ll be amazed how few times you will actually refer to it.

Alternatively, have your key points written down on some paper and if you feel that you’ve missed something important out, go ahead and look at it. Tell the audience that this is what you are doing.

Let them know that what you have to tell them is important and you want to make sure you haven’t missed anything vital. They’ll be more than happy for you to check your notes. 

2. Find Alternatives to PowerPoint

Sure there’s some information that can only be delivered visually but you don’t have to use PowerPoint. Consider how much more effective your visuals would be on a mood board, a flip chart or a document distributed around the audience.

3. Make Yourself the Focus of Attention

Include slides that have nothing on them, step in to the light and regain the centre of the room. Or, horror of horrors, turn the bl…dy thing off. Use another illustrative medium to make your point and turn the computer back on only when it’s needed.

4. Engage, Re-engage & Retain their attention.

You only have 7 seconds to impress your audience; you then have only 30 seconds to motivate them to listen to you further. Then every 7 – 10 minutes you have to do something to re-engage with them.

You have to hit the ATTENTION RESET BUTTON.

With the advent of sophisticated software and higher memory capacity it is easy and very impactful to incorporate video into your slide show.  Consider how powerful YouTube is. It’s not about high production values it’s about the message.

Use music. The relevant song lyric, orchestration or sound track has tremendous emotional weight to create a mood or atmosphere.

Appropriate vivid imagery, not clipart, is another way of keeping your audience interested. If you’re intending to use photos of well know people, choose carefully as you will be judged by the people you use.

5. No, Thank Yous

One of the mistakes I see too often in slide presentations concerns the last slide.  How many times have we seen it say, THANK YOU for your attention or QUESTIONS or CONTACT INFORMATION?

Consider this; the last slide is the one that stays up the longest. It’s there while you are answering questions. It’s there when you are being thanked for your presentation.

It should contain your key selling message, your EBook, your ‘white paper’ or your compelling reason for people to do business with you. It does the selling for you so that you don’t have to.

6. Get Your Audience Writing

How do you know if you are really connecting with your audience? When they do what you ask them to do.

This is one of the times when you can read your slide. By instructing people to write you are conveying the fact that this information is important, valuable and worth remembering.

When they are writing they are buying because they are showing you that they also consider what you have shown them to be of value.

It also tells you that you have got it right and the information you have offered has hit the mark.

Identify who is taking notes as these are the people you should approach after the presentation.

7. Get Them Discussing

Interaction with your audience is the key to gaining the emotional connection you need to gain their buy-in and trust.

Use PowerPoint to trigger discussion. Perhaps put a challenging statement on the screen and get the audience to discuss it amongst themselves and then report back their findings.

If done well it could help identify how they feel about a particular challenge and help direct the rest of the talk.

Never assume you know what problems your audience is feeling. Get them to verbalise them. This will give you the opportunity to tell a story of how you resolved this situation for a client.

Remember, it’s not what you do it’s what you have done for others. That what ‘sells’.

Here’s a bonus rule. It’s not really a rule, more a mindset.

Have fun with your presentations. With that in mind, here’s an amusing but very informative video of how not to use PowerPoint:

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