Death by PowerPoint

How To Present Without PowerPoint.

I think we all recognise that PowerPoint is increasingly associated with ubiquity and mediocrity and that the really impactful and differentiated story-tellers are using other ways to make their messages memorable and engaging. If you are still leaning on that Microsoft crutch then I challenge you to try... just once... to present without it. You will find it a scary but liberating experience.. and your audience will love it. I don't care how complicated your content is, I am convinced that you will do a better job using your personality and language to communicate instead of bullet points and clip art.

 I won't, however, send you out on your challenge unaided. Below are 5 tips on how to present without PowerPoint. 

 Tip #1 Rigour 

Presenting without PowerPoint is not the time to start winging it. The very best presenters talk with confidence because they know their subject matter and they know their audience. So, before you start, ask yourself these questions:

1. Why am I entitled to give this presentation?

2. Have I learnt my subject.. am I an expert on what I am going to talk about?

3. What have the audience come to learn?

4. Do I have the information they need and will it help them?

 If you can not answer these questions with confidence then I suggest you find somebody else to give the presentation, or use PowerPoint and try to bore them into submission instead. If you can answer these questions positively then you are ready to think about your story.

Tip #2 Story Telling

Imagine that one of your audience pokes their head around the door 5 minutes before you are about to begin and apologises for their absence.. they have to rush off to an important meeting/dentist/hair appointment. Can you quickly summarize for them your main point in 3 sentences...without hesitation. Until you know the essence of your story you are not really ready to tell it. Once you can summarize the story in 3 sentences, try and do it in 3 words and then, finally, in one word. Then you are ready to think about how to tell it.

Tip #3 Visualization

So, what is the role of PowerPoint? Is it an aide memoir for the presenter? Well, if so, shame on you, you are a grown up.. learn your script. Is it an aide memoir for the audience? Maybe? But then is a picture of an elephant the only and best way to help them remember the growth opportunity in Africa? I don't think so. Maybe (just maybe) you have a very complex process to explain, and then, maybe (just maybe) I will allow you one slide.. but even then I would use something else, like Prezi for example, just for impact. Below is a list of different ways you can engage your audience without slides. It is not an exhaustive list:

Flip chart 
Moving around the room 

Have a look at some TED videos for inspiration. Hans Rosling is always a good place to start.

Tip #4 Theatre

Remember that you have to sell yourself as well as the message. So, what is it about you that makes you more memorable than the next presenter. This is very personal, it has to be true to you and it can be quite subtle.. you don't need to wear a big yellow hat but there needs to be a story or an angle that makes you more than just the presenter. The actor Chris O'Dowd used to stand out in auditions by claiming that he had been bitten by a dog on the way into the studio. Apparently he used this trick for years. Instead of actor number 17 he suddenly became, "hey, what about the one that was bitten by the dog?" I am not suggesting that you lie, but I am suggesting you inject a little personality, a little bit of yourself, into the story.

Tip #5 Execution

And finally, the best kept secret. The very very best presenters; the calm, commanding talkers who stroll around the room without notes or props.. these guys are the most prepared and the most nervous. If you are not nervous you are not going to be great. The trick is to practise and practise. Practise presenting in front of the mirror; practise presenting standing up with your eyes shut (it is harder than it sounds); present in front of the cat or the kids; when you first enter the presentation room find an excuse to stand at the front and see what the room looks like from where you will present  I don't care what anybody says - nerves are a good thing because they show you care.. and the more you practise the better you will be.  

If you can't do all of the above, then resort back to PowerPoint. It is safe, easy and boring. Your audience with feel safe, they will have an easy time.. and they will be bored.

If you are tempted to go that route then here is an example of what Churchill's great speech might have looked like in PowerPoint... lucky for the world he was around before Microsoft