Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

PowerPoint is a brilliant visual aid, but only when it is used correctly.

Traditional use of PowerPoint stifles discussion and critical thinking, and dulls focus. It's boring. Slide after slide switches audiences off, steadily reducing their ability to take in information. You are wasting your time - and theirs.

A different way of thinking

Choose to make your presentation presenter-based, not PowerPoint-based. You are running the presentation, not PowerPoint. Get used to speaking (and discussing) in front of the audience with nothing on the screen. Get used to using the screen only when it directly illustrates your current point.

Prepare to deliver

Either: prepare speech notes - adding slide numbers to the relevant parts. So you deliberately plan for times when there will be nothing on the screen.

Or (if you need hand-outs) prepare every detail on PowerPoint, saving as hand-out version - then delete all slides with points you can make better directly, saving as screen version. (Be especially ruthless with slides containing only words.)

Make each slide simple. Remove every detail which does not support the point you want to make.

Know the number of each slide (make a list). When your meeting is interactive, you need the flexibility to go directly to any slide in any order (On the keyboard, press the number, then press enter). Never work through other slides to get there.

Make your number one slide black, with a small identifying mark in one corner. It's your black anchor (Press 1, then enter). Return to it often. Return to it when discussion strays significantly from the slide on the screen.

Delivery

Introduce your topic with nothing on the screen. If you must have a title slide, let it show for a few seconds in silence, then blank the screen and begin.

Usually announce each slide, however briefly, before it appears. Never let PowerPoint remind you what to say next.

Then allow a small silence before talking, so your audience can take in the new visual information.

As you speak, stand with feet pointed half-way between the screen and the centre of the audience. When there's nothing on the screen, point your feet back to the centre of the audience.

As you show each slide, try to see it with audience eyes. They are seeing it for the first time.

Leading a team? See PowerPoint: How you can change your culture

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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