Does PowerPoint make a Powerful Point?

Presentations using PowerPoint.

We’ve all done them.

The whizz kids add graphics with spinning words and the novice’s, like me, fill slides with just….words.

A couple of months ago I had to give a presentation at Accenture, where I was invited as a key note speaker.

I had prepared roughly 15 amazing slides for this presentation. Some actually included graphics and one even had an embedded video!

With the memo cards in the inside pocket of my suit jacket on the ready, I was all set.

But as I connected my laptop to the display screen, I looked up and immediately felt disconnected with my audience.

Taking it back 30 minutes, in an earlier break at the conference, I was mingling with the employees and trying to understand who they were, as people. And vice versa.

Now on stage with this giant screen behind me, as I plugged in my USB stick which contained my presentation, I should have felt like I had everything ready to shower the room with all of my ideas.

But strangely, under the shadow of the giant display screen, I felt as if I could not share my passion the way I had intended. Everyone feels obliged to read the screen (as a test, put the subtitles on at home on the TV with the volume up and see what you do) .

My genuineness and true message was lost with this love triangle I had created. I look at my audience, the audience looks at the screen, I look at the screen, my audience looks at me.

So, how do you present in such a way that your message is the hot topic of discussion the following day?

Let’s think about it; how many political rallies or Presidential speeches happen with PowerPoint behind them?

You don’t really hear of people using PowerPoint to propose to their significant other either. Imagine how impersonal and ridiculous it sounds, with a screen behind them that says these are the benefits they can bring and the next slide is their collective vision for the future etc.

Some of the most influential speeches, take for example the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, did not happen with PowerPoint behind them. PowerPoint does not wake up the nation. The author does.

There is a reason Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, created a company-wide policy banning PowerPoint presentations during executive meetings.

Neuroscience research shows multitasking is not effective. Listening to a speaker, whilst trying to read from a screen, along with trying to process and digest this new information has a strain on our inbuilt RAM. Furthermore, research also shows that audience participation actually decreases, when you include slides.

“But my presentation is technical, not emotional, I need to show my thinking…”

There is a solution, talk. Have a conversation with your audience. Speak your thinking.

This leads to careful consideration of your ideas.

We are taught X% of a presentation is in body language, Y% is in tone, Z% is in the substance of what you are saying.

But 0% is in staring at a screen.

Our brains have not had a software update for thousands of years. Screens were not used to make technical or emotional speeches. Yet we use to engage with each other as humans then.

My solution is get people to listen to your message on a personal level, then give out handouts at the end (or in a reading slot before) with your key message.

During the presentation talk about who you are and why you felt this particular topic was so fascinating, so much so that you had to stand up and talk about it.

Dont bore people with a slide deck. Excite them with your personality.

“Realise that PowerPoint is stealing your charisma”.

That’s how we were naturally created to interact. Sure, we work in corporations and have complex issues. But talk them through. Step by step. Slowly. Understanding each point. This means you know your stuff. This means your audience knows you know your stuff. This leads to trust. Which leads to business.

People won’t remember a slide deck. What they will remember is the bits you explained to them, because you made them understand something new. That penny dropping moment when they were looking you in the eye and you opened a new way of thinking for them.

They’ll remember you. Not just your words. And it is you they want to do business with. Not just the alphabets that you had grouped together on a screen.

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