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Kicking the Powerpoint habit

01 Jul 2006

Death by Powerpoint is not a description of the boredom endured by the audience. It's the slow, painful and public failure of a presenter to achieve his or her goal.

I love Powerpoint. It's easy to use, does what I want it to, doesn't crash and it has all sorts of neat zoomy sounds and movements that can spice up my presentation. Powerpoint really ain't too bad. But then neither are AK47s. In fact Powerpoint is neither the answer nor the problem. The problem is the people who use, misuse and abuse presentation software.

Bad presenters

You'll have met these people on your travels – maybe you're one yourself. There are those who just have to tell you absolutely everything about their favourite topic, even if it takes 140 slides at 0.5 seconds a slide- or with fewer slides but with the contents of a short novel on each. Then there are the ones who simply, and boringly, just read out exactly what's on each slide and add nothing more. Others seem to have created their presentation while under the influence of some mind-altering substance. A presentation that seemed to make perfect sense at 2 am now appears to the bemused audience to be a load of gobbledygook.

The sad thing about these presentations is that, in the end, we all lose. The presenter has failed in his or her attempt to communicate a message – or worse, alienated a group of potential buyers, influencers or allies. And for us poor suckers in the audience, we've just lost another hour of our time on this earth.

You can do better

Creating a non-screw up presentation isn't that difficult. Creating an award-winning presentation is – but for most of us successfully delivering a clear, credible, compelling and valuable presentation is quite enough.

What these sad cases above have in common is that they've fallen under the influence of presentation software and believe the answer to all their presentation fears lies in a drop-down menu.

Get to the point

There's no silver bullet answer to creating a successful presentation. You'll find reams of material on the net but all the tips and tricks for delivering demon presentations aren’t worth a bean if you don’t first get some of the big questions answered.

Consider these points when creating your presentation.

-What am I trying to achieve with this presentation?

-What do I want the audience to be thinking when they leave the room?

-What action do I want them to take after this?

Answer these questions clearly and succinctly and you have your objective. Write it down and keep it in mind. Make sure every slide contributes to this outcome - if it doesn't bung it out.

Less is more - a few slides can deliver all the punch you need, more than that fuzzes up the message. Those who want more detail will ask for it.

Let's think about your audience again. Have you thought about what baggage they're bringing into this presentation? What about the political relationships between members of the audience? What do all the people attending really want to get from their time with you?

The point is it's easy to use Powerpoint as a crutch. You can get away with not really knowing your material or just hide in the shadows while the bright lights do the talking. But what happens when you lean on anything too much? You become a cripple. If you're doing the presentation then you should be the centre of attention.

It’s your material: you should know it. Deliver it from the heart, with passion and conviction – not from the bottom of your boots.


A while ago a client of mine scored an opportunity to present to their client's senior management team. My client had a

champion insider who had set up the meet and even helped with the inviting. My client created a beautiful, loooong, presentation and was considering shelling out big bucks for video and graphics to make it look even snazzier. This was going to be a classic stand and deliver presentation with my client standing well out of the limelight. What they hadn't considered was why their champion had been so keen to set up the meet. This was his opportunity to look good – not my client's. The management team didn't want a show off procession of facts and figure, they wanted to meet the guys who delivered their services – to decide if they liked and trusted them. In the end my client made a short intro and then allowed the champion to lead a discussion based on some trigger points put up on the screen. They finished with a game of pool and it all worked a treat.

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