Today I persuaded someone not to hire me. And it didn’t bother me one bit, because I knew I was doing him a favor.
Sometimes we’re asked to communicate in ways in which we’re not comfortable. When that happens, people can tell you’re not at your best. In the case of my client, maybe he really knows his stuff but has trouble getting the slides to transition correctly. Or maybe in a highly interactive presentation the audience jumps ahead to a topic that doesn’t come up for another ten slides. Then he’d have to go to the computer, get out of the slide show view, and find the right place to fast forward to. Either way, he looks inept as he struggles to make the slides catch up with the conversation.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
We started our discussion with a few pleasantries, then got down to business. “I’m doing a presentation based on a chapter in my book, and I need some slides. But I hate PowerPoint.” Right away I knew that any slides we developed together wouldn’t work for him. Instead, we discussed what he would be talking about, what he wanted the audience to learn, and what actions he wanted people to take as a result of having attended his presentation. After that, I told him, “I would recommend that you don’t use any slides at all.”
“Wow, coming from you that sounds counterintuitive,” he replied.
Not really. He told me himself that some of the most dynamic speakers he’s seen don’t use slides. And they really aren’t necessary if you know what you want to communicate and have practiced your presentation. In fact, presenting without slides makes you look like a consummate expert if you’re able to quickly transition from subject to subject according to audience input, respond to questions, and go on what seems to be a spontaneous tangent but that in reality is part of your presentation.
Because the important thing is preparation. Just because you’re presenting without slides doesn’t mean you’re winging it. This type of presentation requires the same type of foundational work as one done with slides. You need to start with an outline and structure your presentation with a definitive beginning, middle, and ending. At the beginning, you encapsulate what you’re going to talk about and what value it will bring to the audience. The body of the presentation uses stories, case histories, statistics, and the like to support your introduction. At the end of the presentation, you review the most important things you talked about and invite further discussion.
When you practice your presentation enough, you come across as more conversational and less of a lecturer. The goal is to get the audience on your side: nodding their heads, smiling, asking questions, actively participating. It’s much easier to read your audience when you’re not reading your slides!
So if you hate PowerPoint, forget about it. Don’t even bother. Because your hatred of the medium will be obvious to your audience. Instead, talk in a way that feels more natural. That way, you’ll be able to deliver a more powerful presentation.