Is the PowerPoint presentation dead? Nail your next presentation!

Is the PowerPoint presentation dead? Nail your next presentation!

We have all seen and maybe even presented endless bullet points and boring content. Presentations where the audience walks away stunned and with no knowledge of what the point of the presentation was meant to be. New tools and technologies are available to create stunning animation and effects to capture the attention of the audience. There is just one BIG problem…


The Big presentation problem
Start with the content
Step 1. Fix the content with a document
Step 2. Create the presentation from the document
Step 3. Craft your narrative from the body text
Step 4. Replace some of the text with images
Step 5. Measure the content length
Next work on your presentation style
Work with your nervous energy
Connect with your audience
Finish BIG and leave your mark
Is PowerPoint dead?
Tools for presenting

The BIG presentation problem

The BIG problem is that with all the flashy gadgets and eye popping effects the content still has to be good and the point or points of the presentation have to be clearly understood. New tools and technologies won’t help bad content or bad presenters.

In a presentation meeting, many people forget or don’t know that the presenter is more important than the technology which is showing the content. The presenter is the narrator, the story teller, of the content being presented. Presentations lose their effectiveness and become boring when the presenter is boring and hides behind the presentation tool.

To exacerbate the boring presentation, simply throw in some badly structured and formatted content. Yes, the eye chart slides with way too much content for any normal person in a presentation to comprehend. The poorly formed use of effects to try and spruce up bad or perceived boring content.

Rest assured that there are good ways to present a fantastic presentation where the audience walks away with the full knowledge of the content and the feeling of time well spent. It just starts with awareness and then a little practice but soon you will be able to pull off the best presentation ever!

Start with the content

Part of the problem with bad presentation content starts with the thought by the presenter that the presentation is a document. The presentation is not a document it is a presentation. A document contents lots of detail to fully explain the concepts and points which are being communicated. A presentation provides backup material to the presenter so that the presenter can narrate and fully explain the concepts and points of the presentation to be communicated verbally.

Step 1. Fix the content with a document

All too often the presenter feels the presentation is a document on its own, which is a mistake that should be corrected. Start the creation of your presentation by creating a full document which could stand on its own and be understood by the reader. This is the document which you should leave behind with your audience rather than your presentation slide deck. This document can be used by your audience later to fill in any main points and to carry your message further.

Step 2. Create the presentation from the document

Once your document is fully created use it to create your presentation. Pull out only the titles from the sections in your document. The underlying text is what your presentation notes will be built from. For example if I was to present this article as a presentation I would put only “Step 1. Fix the content with a document” on a slide and used the text under the heading to create my narrative. Be aware, you can’t simply use all the text as-is to create the negative as it is too structured and not conversational enough to be presented smoothly, but you will used it to craft your narrative.

Step 3. Craft your narrative from the body text

Read the body text of your document out loud to yourself and strike out the text which doesn’t feel natural to your style of speaking. You have to use your own voice to narrate the story and to add emphasis to your points. Simply regurgitating the written text from your document while presenting will create a robotic and boring sounding narrative. Use your own voice and character so that you connect with the content in a natural way and this gives your audience the opportunity to connect with you which in turn connects them with the content.

Step 4. Replace some of the text with images

Where appropriate you should try to replace some or all of the text in your presentation with strong images. The use of images help the audience to visualize the content being presented to them through the narrative and to help create an emotional level connection. Creating an emotional connection to your content through images helps the audience create a stronger memory of your content and a better chance that your points will be remembered.

For example, if you are presenting a slide about the growth of profits, rather than presenting an image of the same old bar chart, use an image of a mountain range with the numbers place in the peaks and valleys. Or better yet, only include the one number on the image which is the really important number and leave the details for the document. Speak only to the important number and drive home your point.

When using images also try to use photos rather than clip art or other graphics. Photos are real and carry their own weight on the slide which has a better chance to make the emotional connection you are looking for. When you do use a photo image, always include the source in your presentation, either in some simple gray text at the bottom of the picture or on a picture source slide. If your presentation is public you will also want to make sure you are able to use any copyrighted material.

Step 5. Measure the content length

Most of the time you will only have a defined allotment of time for your presentation. Most likely your original document will be too long for your allotted time and you will have to determine what content to focus on and what to leave out. You will have to go through your content and determine what must be in your presentation and roughly determine how many slides that may break out into.

Once you have a slide count estimate you can also estimate the time based on the 2 minute rule. The 2 minute rule is that you should estimate 2 minutes of talking per slide. Simply add up your estimated slides and multiply by 2 minutes to determine if your content will fit within the time slot you have been allotted. The 2 minute rule will also help you with your timing and pacing of the narrative for your presentation by keeping you close to the 2 minutes per slide.

Next work on your presentation style

Presenting in front of an audience can be a BIG scary proposition for many people. It may be good to know even the most seasoned speakers get butterflies just before a presentation. As you will see this nervous energy can be your key to your best presentation ever!

Also, once you nail down your overall presentation style you will build up your confidence to carry you through the toughest of audiences.

Work with your nervous energy

Nervous energy is a great source to tap into to bring enthusiasm and energy to the narrative of your presentation. The key is to control this energy so that it doesn’t overwhelm and consume you which would distract you from delivering your narrative. There are many ways to control this energy to your advantage.

One technique starts well before your presentation and it starts with practice. You have to practice your presentation over and over so that you smooth out the rough spots and more importantly so that you know your narrative inside and out. Practice doesn’t mean just reading your narrative to yourself you have to speak audibly so that you can hear your speech. Also, through your practice you can work on pacing so that you finish your presentation in time.

Another technique is done just before you are about to speak. You should find some time for yourself in a quiet place out of view from others. Next you will want to get BIG and powerful which has been proven to help your confidence. This means actually physically being as big as you can be with your arms stretched high over your head and out wide and your legs spread as well. You want to feel powerful! The magic number for getting BIG is 2 minutes. This technique may feel a little strange at first but it really does work wonders. 

It is good to control the energy level you have before a speech by do something which takes some of the energy down a notch or two. Remember this energy is your friend so you don’t want to eliminate it you want to control it. So, you can try a little jumping on the spot or running on the spot. Some people like to let out a scream but this may not be possible based on where you are.

One last technique you can do to take the edge off is to get up on stage or go to the front of the room before the audience is fully ready for your presentation. This enables you to be in front of the audience before speaking which can make you a little more comfortable at the front.

Pull together a few of these energy management techniques while harnessing the excitement and you will find that you will pull off the best presentation you have ever done!

Connect with your audience

As you are the narrator it is critical that you connect with your audience. A strong connection with your audience will form a strong connection to your content. When these strong connections are made the point of your presentation is communicated much more clearly and your audience will understand your points better.

One classic mistake to avoid is talking to your presentation slide rather than to your audience. When talking you should avoid physically turning away from your audience to face the presentation screen. If you do turn away, while you are talking, you risk breaking the connection you may have with the audience. Instead of turning way, face your audience when you are talking and try to make direct eye contact with members of the audience. Don’t stare at one person, instead work the room with glances through the narrative of your presentation.

Another mistake to avoid is to not read your notes. Hopefully you are able to practise enough that you don’t need notes for your presentation, however, if you do feel more comfortable with them remember not to simply read them. Reading your notes to the audience is like reading to your presentation slides and can again risk breaking the connection with the audience. If you are creating notes prepare your notes using BIG fonts so that an easy glance will enable you to pick up the point you are at. Also, it is sometimes advantageous to only put the main points in your presentation so that you don’t feel tied to the words and you can delivery your narrative more smoothly in your own voice. Some like to use index cards with one main point on each card, but be careful that you don’t fidget with them and distract your audience.

Finish BIG and leave your mark

The presenter has just delivered a fantastic engaging presentation with a great backup slide presentation with emotion connecting images and now she is ready for the BIG finish. It is at this point many presenters miss a huge opportunity to leave a memorable mark on the audience. Many presenters plow through the presentation content and at the end of the presentation it just stops abruptly when the content is done. The presenter is happy all the content is delivered and takes a breath but the audience is left disconnected and hanging.

Prepare your closing statement carefully to wrap up your presentation and leave your audience with something to take away. Out of all parts of your presentation, practice you closing the most so that you know it cold and can deliver it smoothly. It is your final point you are leaving with the audience. Good closings can include a brief highlight of some points from your narrative followed by some call to action.

An example of a closing statement or remark based on this article (if I was speaking): “You have heard how to fix your content and learned how to rework your presentation style, now it is your turn to use this knowledge in your next presentation.”

Is PowerPoint Dead?

No PowerPoint is not dead, but hopefully the presentation content and presenter’s style will change to make presentations much more informative, entertaining and effective!

PowerPoint is only a tool which is to be used to create great presentations. I would actually argue that PowerPoint or similar types of slide presentation tools are better than some of the newer tools on the market which zoom in and out of content. Some of the new tools can distract and disconnect the audience from the narration and should be used with caution. The thing to remember is that the presentation tool is simply a tool and a good presentation comes from a good presenter not the tool.

Tools for presenting

Talking about tools, I have put together the following list of tools and other things which can be used to enhance your next presentation but please remember it is YOU that makes a good presentation not the tool. Everyone can become a fantastic presenter with the right content and style. - toastmasters international has been around for a very long time and clubs can be found around the world. As an accomplished toastmaster I would strongly recommend this organization even if they do seem a little cult like at times!

Renolds, Garr. Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery. California: New Riders, 2008, print. – This book provides good information on modern presentation content with good insight on the use of images. There is also a website with content: - a good source of images with copyright usages listed with many providing free usage rights. - one of the newer presentation tools on the market. Be careful using this in a traditional presentation setting as the audience may be a little distracted by the movement of the images and become disconnected from the narration. - another new presentation tool on the market which is focused on visuals and putting content online for remote viewing.

Ted talk - mentioned above about gaining confidence through BIG powerful positions.

Images source: some of the images used in this article come from
PowerPoint is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation.

Do you know any other tools which we should look at? Please comment on them below.

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