It is standard to have impressive PowerPoint slides prepared, when giving a presentation. But have you ever thought about just skipping the slides and going without them? Sounds too scary to you? Then this is exactly what you should do. You will see your next presentation will be much better. Here is why you should try to give your next presentation without PowerPoint, i.e. without relying on fancy visuals.
When preparing for a presentation/talk for many of us one of the first things to do, is drafting a great title slide and spending time on the design. Well and there we go, head-on right into the trap. I went through this process so many times; I started with the layout because it is something I enjoy doing. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the purpose of the presentation, which is to inform. The layout can only support the process of getting the message to the audience and nothing more. The time spent on peripheral items before the talk itself is completed, is potentially wasted time. What if you decide to change the design in the last minute, because it doesn’t work with your message?
Then just think about whatever you have listened to in the last seven days. Do you remember the numbers or the stories?
It is always the stories we remember not the hard facts. Just give it a try the next time you prepare a presentation. Draft your presentation as if you only had your voice and nothing else. If you think you can’t do without slides then plan for some time to prepare them after your are done drafting the words of the stories you want to tell.
It is all about the stories, always.
I believe, it doesn’t matter what type of presentation you are giving or what industry you are in, all what your audience will care about is your core message and the stories you are telling to convey it. If you are able to do it without using slides, then you will convince them.
Sure, we like to impress visually and by presenting lots of content. Tables are always great, but most listeners won’t be able to really grasp more than one number per slide. And even this one number will be likely forgotten, unless it is THE number of your talk. Your audience wants to understand what those numbers mean, it wants to understand why the diagrams you are showing are either a good or a bad sign. Your audience wants to know the stories behind the numbers and diagrams.
Many of us design slides that help us during the presentation. With a lot if information, so we don’t have to memorize it, because we can read it off the slides. With a structure that we can simply walk along while presenting. Unfortunately, we forget who these slides are intended for:
For our audience.
They don’t want to read through all the text, they want to focus on you and hear it from you. People are always attracted to visuals which mean they will look at the slides not the presenter. And admit it, some slides are just pointless (like the one here).
True, there will be cases, where you have to talk about complicated content, and you may think it is only possible to do so with the visual support of slides. But if you cannot explain it without a slide, then you probably don’t really understand it enough to simplify you content as much as necessary.
These are some suggestions what you can do:
- Have a brief preview (Today I am going to tell you about X, Y, and Z. )
- Think about your core message and the stories you need to tell to convey it.
- You can ask rhetoric or even better direct questions (Have you ever….? How many of you have …)
- Engage your audience.
- Tell your audience why they should care. Answer the “So what?” question for each point you are trying to make.
- It is important to repeat your core message a couple of times during your presentation so it can sink in.
- Although it may feel weird, it is a good tool to directly repeat an important message, if you do it only once during your presentation.
- Clearly review what you’ve said.
- If you want, you can distribute handouts after your presentation. Never before, it’s too distracting.
At last for those of you, who really like bullet points, here are the advantages for giving your next presentation without PowerPoint slides:
- You will have to look at your audience and thus engage them more.
- Your audience will focus more on what you are saying and not on your slides (or handout).
- You will have more room to improvise and expand sections if you feel your audience needs that.
- You won’t have to show your audience that you got your time management wrong by having to jump over slides.
- You will be talking more to your audience vs. reading to them.
- By missing the visuals, you will have to focus more on the content, which is everything that matters.
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