Many have called for the Death of PowerPoint as they are understandably under-whelmed by so many presentations.
But given the many complex elements that make up a powerful presentation, it is too simplistic to blame the presentation tool.
It is, after all, hugely powerful when managed well and so widely used it is hard to kill off.
So, the question remains: how do we create consistently powerful presentations with or without PowerPoint?
Two words: stop rambling.
If the presenter gets to their point quickly they will engage their audience far better than dragging everyone through all the background detail and a seemingly endless list of irrelevant charts and diagrams first.
Here are four ideas to help you stop rambling your presentations (using whichever tool you prefer):
Firstly, the hard part: Identify the main point you need to make for this particular audience – your ‘so what' – and write it in a sentence.
Yes, just one. Write it in 25 words or less, in words that are simple and clear enough for someone removed from the situation, such as your grandmother, to understand.
Secondly, chunk your supporting points in a way that will work for your audience
Work out if you need to persuade your audience that this is the right big idea, or whether they will want to know how to implement it.
- To persuade, you will need to choose to engage them through their minds with analysis, or to engage them personally through narrative story.
- To provide an implementation plan, step out the actions one by one in logical order.
- To do both, use deductive logic to prepare an argument story, incorporating what you judge to be the right balance of analysis and story.
Thirdly, create your PowerPoint (or Keynote, or Slides presentation) and get someone to help you with the visuals if they are critical to your presentation.
Neil Young of www.ogcommunicationdesign.com is both fast and fabulous. With or without Neil, make sure you have one message on each page and a diagram to match, avoiding too many bullet points and using font that is large enough for your audience to read. Wherever possible, use more pages rather than less.
As you have already worked out, there is quite an art to this.
Gene Zelazny of McKinsey & Company fame provides outstanding counsel on this subject in his two excellent books: Say it with Presentations and Say it with Charts. Both are available from his website: www.zelazny.com.
I take no fees from either Neil or Gene.
Lastly, make like Winston Churchill.
Wear a hole in the carpet as you walk back and forward in front of the mirror practicing until you get it right.
There really are no shortcuts, either with making a good presentation or with getting rid of PowerPoint.
Davina Stanley is founder of the Clarity First Program, which helps mid-career experts communicate so their good ideas get the traction they deserve – fast.
Davina is a fan of PowerPoint (when used well) and of Neil Young who is a master information designer.
Neil can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org