Presentation 101: Why You Need to Ditch the Deck


Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Management pros

Monday, August 14, 2017

Presenting your ideas in an engaging format is crucial for any business, but taking an unconventional approach may pay off the next time you head to the stage.

Article 4 Minutes
Presentation 101: Why You Need to Ditch PowerPoint

Presenting your ideas in a way that engages and resonates with your audience is a key part of any business. Whether you're pitching your latest product or going through profit/revenue with your stakeholders, it's important that you are able to communicate effectively.

Companies are often very inflexible with the style and format they want to deliver presentations in, regardless of what the content is or who their audience is. Although there are a wide range of traditional presenting techniques, sticking to a deck just doesn't work anymore.

Stepping out of your comfort zone can be a very liberating experience, and when it comes to presentations, you also have the chance to liberate others too. So why not try something new and finally ditch the deck?

Restricting you and your ideas

For many organizations, sticking to a deck becomes a safety net that they are terrified to let go of, but can actually be detrimental to their business. Statistician Edward Tufte talks about how this can be extremely restrictive, forcing people to change how they would most naturally communicate with others.

He cites NASA and describes the way that this has been a significant barrier to the organization.

"The rigid slide-by-slide hierarchies, indifferent to content, slice and dice the evidence into arbitrary compartments, producing an anti-narrative with choppy continuity."

Tufte also highlights how the charts and graphs, which are commonplace in most presentations, undermine the audience by suggesting they couldn't get the same information from a table.

Alienating your audience

Many presentations end up stealing the attention of the person delivering them, rather than engaging with the audience. If you are nervous or not confident, you can fall into the trap of facing the presentation and simply reading out what it says on the screen.

This is obviously not ideal. Your back - and attention - is turned away from your audience, meaning you lose any chance of developing an emotional connection between you, your presentation and them. Being able to establish this emotional connection is one of the most effective ways of getting people invested in what you're saying, so you are essentially shooting yourself in the foot.

By reading what's on screen, you're also risking your audience completely zoning out. They are essentially getting the same information twice, which will make them disengage with both your presentation and you.

Frozen to the spot

Often when people deliver presentations, they feel so tied to what's on screen that they will stay in the exact same spot, maybe doing some awkward pacing, but really not paying attention to their body language.

The way you hold yourself can tell the audience several things about how you're feeling, which they will then transfer to the ideas you are talking about. If you watch any great speaker, they move around the stage, making eye contact with the audience and use verbal and non-verbal cues to show the audience they are engaged in the topic.

Struggle to get to the point

Presentations are often set out so the audience gets a lot of information before the speaker gets to the point that the audience cares about. Attention spans can vary but are probably much shorter than your presentation and this has only been exacerbated by the digital age.

People are used to being able to pick up a device and watch, listen or read exactly what they want to. This means if your presentation doesn't engage or entertain them right at the start, they're basically lost for the rest of your pitch.

Instead, use Q&A sessions to get your audience involved, use stories and analogies to entertain and start by addressing their main pain points.

A fairly ineffective format

A typical slide can comfortably hold around 40 words, which the average person can read in just eight seconds. This means that speakers need to have multiple slides to get their point across. Not only does this get laborious for the audience and presenter, but also commands the attention of everyone in the room. People who may have been engaged in what you were saying are shifted to the next point without warning and the speaker is focused on reminding themselves of where they are.

This divides attention that should be used completely on engaging with the audience and the subject matter.

Not completely useless

This style of presenting isn't completely dead and buried in the modern business age, but speakers do need to know how to use it. Using software as a keynote to carry an interesting visual or overarching question that you want the audience to ask themselves, can be effective.

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