How to make your point without PowerPoint
15 April 2016
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Hello and welcome to another edition of Old Mutual Live Business, my name is Chris Gibbons. Have you ever sat in a conference or a meeting staring blankly at a screen? Listening to the presenter drone on, click and drone on, click and… Sorry, I know you can’t read this slide, but I’ll explain it to you, click… Thinking to yourself, now I know what they mean by death by PowerPoint and surely there must be a better way.
Well, there is and remember as you think about this, that the US Marine Corp has actually banned PowerPoint because it’s such a bad way of communicating. What you do is do nothing, aahhh, I can hear you say to yourself, do nothing? How do nothing? Surely it’s a presentation, I’ve got to have slides. If I don’t have slides, how will I get my point across and what happens if I forget my words?
Well, you can relax because we’re joined now by someone who has given a great deal of thought to this and has just published a book on the subject called, How To Make Your Point Without PowerPoint – 50 Ways To Present Effectively. He is Consultant, Business Author, Professional Speaker, no less than five times Southern African Champion for Public Speaking, Douglas Kruger.
Why is PowerPoint seen as so dreadful?
Douglas, welcome to Old Mutual Live Business. 50 Ways To Present Effectively, I’m going to try and limit you to a top handful. But first of all, let me hear your view on this contentious subject. Why is PowerPoint so universally dreadful? Is it inherent in the software? Is it the way it’s used?
Douglas Kruger: Absolutely Chris, thank you very much. Yes, it’s really, it’s how it’s being inflicted on the world that’s doing the damage. The idea in itself of using a visual aid is not a bad one, but it’s become so en-cultured in the corporate world. That you have to create a slide deck, that it’s almost become a quasi-religious thing.
It’s like if you haven’t created a slide deck, then you haven’t done your job. I contend that the problem is, we’re putting 80% of our energy into designing slides and 20% or less into thinking about how to convince an audience and that’s our actual goal.
CG: I’m not convinced. Why should I ditch PowerPoint? I’m worried that I’ll be the only one at the conference who doesn’t have a slide deck?
DK: Absolutely Chris and in doing so you will stand point. In fact, I did some coaching with an executive the other day who had exactly the same issue. It took a while to get around the psychology, the idea that if you stand out by design, that is a good thing for you. The key, of course, is you want to stand out and be superior as a presenter. Put those two together and you’ve got a winning combination.
How to work PowerPoint out of your presentation
CG: Okay, that’s it, you’ve convinced me, I’m going to kick the PowerPoint habit, where do I start?
DK: All right, what we’re doing is we’re not just getting rid of a tool, we’re changing the orientation of our thinking. Here’s your starting point, is to get your head around the idea that a data dump is not a job well done. Our job as presenters is to take certain key messages, key ideas and make them come to life for the audience.
If you can use a slide to make that happen, great. But it’s truly not the best way to do it. If our job is to sell an idea, when we present; we are not journalists, we are salesmen and that is a radical shift in how we go about doing what we do.
Facts and figures are only important in so far as you can use them to sell your idea or forward your cause. Otherwise they’re extraneous – dump them. You’re there to connect, engage and persuade, so start by changing the orientation of your thinking.
What makes a good speech
CG: Douglas, your book divides into three sections, the first one gets right to the heart of what makes a good speech.
DK: Absolutely, one of the major things that makes a good presentation and there’s sound research behind this by people like Daniel Kahneman with the seminal book, Thinking Fast and Slow. He goes into excruciating detail about how detail turns human minds off.
The longer we are exposed to dry, boring facts, the more we tune out. We’ve all experienced that and you have that moment of ignition that comes back in when the presenter says “you know, the other day I walked into a store and I saw…”
What’s happening there is we’re going into story telling mode and it changes something in the human mind. We sit up and pay attention once again. So really, the best presenting is simply this and in fact all presenting is really just this: Make a point, tell a story. Make another point, tell another story. We can go into great depth and intricate detail about how to do that effectively to greater and greater degrees, but that’s the heart and soul of it.
CG: Part II draws on your experience as a professional public speaker, Replacements for Slides, there’s some really good stage craft in there.
DK: Absolutely and in fact as you suggested, the book divides into different sections. One section is structures that replace slides. In other words, if you use a certain presentation structure, you actually negate the need to have any kind of visual aid whatsoever. The second part of the book is physical replacements for slides, like the kind of props and visual aids that you can use in place of PowerPoints.
A possible way to make PowerPoint work for you
CG: Part III, you concede that under certain circumstances, maybe, just maybe you can use PowerPoint. You, in fact, have a number of key note speeches in one of them, I gather, hush, I won’t tell anyone. You do actually use PowerPoint yourself.
DK: Absolutely and in fact if you see the way in which I use it, I have a theory by which I say, ‘your slide should be the itch, not the scratch’. In other words, your slide should set you up and not the other way around. People make the horrendous mistake of giving away all of their information on the slide and psychologically Chris, here’s what happens.
I can read faster than you can present. I’ll get halfway down your slide and I’ll have that moment where I get it. After that, I switch off and I wait for you to catch up. Slide after slide, we create this rhythm where it’s read, get it, switch off. Read, get it, switch off.
There are only so many times you can go through that rhythm before you’ve actually lost an audience. If you do it the other way around. Where for example, very simple, your slide asks a question or simply puts up a dramatic visual which you then have to explain, the exact reverse happens. They stay with you until that moment where they get it.
Practise does make perfection
CG: Douglas, I do a fair amount of media training and one of the things I tell my delegates when it comes to doing that presentation, making a speech, there is absolutely no substitute for rehearsal. I remind them of the French word for rehearsal is ‘rèpètition’. Do it again, and again, and then do it once more. What’s your view on that?
DK: Absolutely, there’s a past Toastmasters World Champion who said: To become a great speaker, you only need three things. Stage time, stage time and stage time. He contends, and I agree with him, that there is great merit in actually standing in front of an audience and presenting out loud.
There are things you can do to practice in the background, I mean just presenting to a mirror in a private space is very good. But actual practice in front of an audience is brilliant. In fact, I think really what this whole topic boils down to is that people are viewing PowerPoint as a replacement for basic public speaking and persuasion skills.
Honestly, I can guarantee, if you know how to stand. To vary the pitch and pace of your voice. To tell a compelling story in the right voice tone. How to pause dramatically. How to connect using eye contact. You will be way, way ahead of presenters who have simply said: I’ll start with a slide and hope it will carry me along.
A quick trick to giving a great presentation
CG: However, did Shakespeare manage without PowerPoint? Douglas, a single best piece of advice that you can give someone thinking about this, no PowerPoint, what would it be?
DK: Okay, you’ve got five minutes to prepare a presentation, you have to speak for an hour, here’s what you do. You take your top four points, four things that you want to say. You use this structures, P-S-A, point-story-application.
For each point you go, all right, what is the thing that I want to say. What is a supporting story or analogy that I can use to make it come alive and how does the audience apply it to their own lives. Repeat, repeat, repeat. You can do an hour of key note speaking, sans notes, no visual aid and you will look masterful doing it. Point-story-application.
CG: Masterful advice there from Douglas Kruger, author of How To Make Your Point Without PowerPoint – 50 Ways To Present Effectively. Douglas, thank you for joining me on Old Mutual Live Business.
DK: You’re most welcome.