A few weeks ago, I posted “3 Reasons To Ditch Your PowerPoint Slides” and suggested we forgo the slideshows for our upcoming presentations. Why? Ditching slides allows a presenter to promote audience discussion and interaction and to engage the listeners, and this does wonders for an audience. Additionally, getting rid of PowerPoint and Keynote forces preparation and practice on the part of the presenter.
I received such a wonderful comment on “3 Reasons To Ditch Your PowerPoint Slides” that I wanted to share Gary’s response with you:
I can go along with this, but I have a question I have not seen an answer to. Without slides, how do I remember what to talk about? I’ve heard Steve Jobs’ quote, ‘People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.’ That sounds wonderful, but I do know what I am talking about, yet I get nervous even after many hundreds of presentations. I do not trust that I would remember the overall presentation flow. I don’t need a written-out document, but I do need at least a list of bullet items. Any recommendations on how to keep on track?
Gary asks a really important question. If we ditch PowerPoint, how can we ensure our presentation’s organization and structure are still strong?
I want to point out a few things from Gary’s comment that many presenters – including me – face. Slides do keep us on track. In many cases, slides have our speaking notes written on them word-for-word, so it’s easy to rely on that death-by-PowerPoint instead of thorough preparation and practice. If we don’t have slides to teleprompt us in, how do we make sure we’ve covered all of our material?
First, we have to get rid of this idea that “presentation” and “PowerPoint” are the same thing. The words are not synonyms. A presentation is a powerful tool for communicating information using meaningful human connection. Its definition is “an activity in which someone shows, describes, or explains something to a group of people” (Source).
How is a presentation different from a PowerPoint? Well, a PowerPoint is not an activity; it is typically a document filled with the speaker’s notes. If your PowerPoint has all of the words you plan to speak to your audience, you don’t even need to be there in front of them to read the message for them. They can read the slide themselves. If you don’t need to be present for your message to be understood, you haven’t created a presentation. You’ve created a document.
Insider Secret: To learn more about how to create an effective PowerPoint slide from the masters like Garr Reynolds, start here. Until one learns the tools to building effective slides, I would suggest ditching them completely.
Second, we must create an outline. You know all of the stuff you might typically write out on a PowerPoint slide? Those are your notes, and they should be kept for your eyes only. Your audience doesn’t need to read your notes at the same time you are reading them. Keeping those notes to yourself allows your audience to feel engaged in the activity of a presentation as opposed to bored as you read a document they are simultaneously reading.
Some of us may prefer one piece of paper with our speech outlined on the front or on the front and back. Others of us may prefer a few notecards with 3-5 words per card. Others still might want to use our iPad or other tablet. Whatever method you prefer, the most important idea is to stick with an outline as opposed to a script. An outline should include bullets and phrases as opposed to complete sentences. Building an outline and holding it in your hand when you present ensures you get through all of your content effectively.
Insider Secret: Presentation expert Scott Berkun writes out his 3-5 main points on an index card and keeps it in his back pocket when he speaks. That way, he always knows his order, his structure, and his main points AND has them on his person.
Third, we need to practice so that our message makes it to our audience. When we rely on slides, we feel we don’t need to practice because all of the information is written right there on the PowerPoint.
Some might argue, “But it’s time effective to do it the old way!” Of course it is… for the speaker. But the audience suffers the consequences, and on presentation day, the easiness on behalf of the speaker turns into a boring read-along for the audience. Count every single person in the audience and consider how much TOTAL time they are spending on your presentation. Let’s say you deliver a 10 minute presentation to 20 people. That’s 200 total minutes being spent listening to your speech. Put in at least that much time preparing for your poor audience who want, expect, and deserve for their time to be valued.
Practicing helps our message focus on our audience, which helps us as presenters make sure those 200 minutes are spent wisely. When you practice something out loud, you can identify changes to make your message more cohesive, more clear, and more meaningful.
Insider Secret: When is the last time you practiced before you gave a presentation? If the answer is “never,” then you should pick up a copy of Nancy Duarte’s Resonate. This presentation expert’s book will change the way you present forever!
Finally, we have to practice to overcome our nerves. To Gary’s point, most of us use PowerPoint slides as our security blanket. We can hide behind those slides. It’s really scary to come out and give our audience that human connection they need, want, and deserve. Practicing allows us to feel more comfortable with our message, to internalize it. While that won’t get rid of the public speaking anxiety completely, it will help us manage our fear.
Insider Secret: Everyone gets nervous about presenting, but the pros know how to manage that adrenaline by turning it into excitement as opposed to fear. Figure out how you can channel your adrenaline in the right place just like the professional speakers. Click here to learn more.
People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint. If that’s true, then it takes quite a bit of preparation and practice to get there. I hope these four tips will help you ditch those slides and focus on a more meaningful, impacting connection with your audience during your next presentation.
What tips would you add for delivering a presentation without PowerPoint slides?