If you want to communicate well as a leader, you need to be a good speaker without slides doing the talking for you.
Not only are most powerpoint slides a huge waste of time, in my opinion, but I’ve never met anyone who enjoys watching them. You never hear anyone say, “Oh, I can’t wait to see that person’s bullet points in their 100-slide PowerPoint presentation.”
Rather than put effort into finding new ways to improve slides, I’m advocating you do away with slides altogether. Because when you do, you’ll be able to focus on what really matters: communicating your thoughts effectively.
1. Remove technology from your planning routine.
Before an Apple product launch, Steve Jobs would create the story content without technology. His reasoning: if you can’t say it without a prop, you can’t tell a story.
Amazon operates the same way. No one walks into a meeting with slides. They write a story. Everyone in the meeting reads the document, then discusses it. The method is so effective because instead of focusing on preparing slides, the presenter is focused on crafting a coherent argument.
If you want to emulate that strategy, ban laptops and slides during meetings. Instead, have everyone use pen and paper, or go to the whiteboard to explain their ideas to one another.
When you remove the temptation to use technology to do the work of communicating for you, it becomes easier to effectively explain your idea and get to a place where you’re clear and concise.
2. Approach a presentation the way a news correspondent does.
News reporters don’t use bullet-points on slides to deliver the news. They tell you a story.
Understanding how storytelling works is a crucial component of effective public speaking. A good story is one of the easiest ways to make a presentation memorable. It provides a frame of reference for the audience and helps listeners construct a mental picture that will bring a remote or complex topic to life.
In the business world today, the ability to effectively tell a story is invaluable. You can develop your own story by the critical aspects of the plot – the challenge that needs to be overcome and the vision of a better day ahead. From there, create three distinct sections that move your audience forward on that journey. Lastly, explain what actions people can take to put this journey into life at work.
Today, there are so many opportunities to tell a story. You can share your narrative online through social media, with a conference call, or make it part of a weekly office meeting. When you ditch slides, you’ll begin to see how powerful storytelling can be not only during presentations but in any situation where you need to get your point across.
3. Practice alone before going public.
People like PowerPoint because they don’t like public speaking.
When you’re on stage, slides make everything easier. When you’re nervous, you have bullet points to keep you on track. That massive screen in front of the room gives the audience something to focus their attention on other than you. It’s as if you’re saying, “Don’t look at me. Look at the screen. I’m not the presentation. The screen is the presentation.”
But the presenter is supposed to be Batman—not Robin. You are not secondary to your slides.
To banish fear and nervousness, practice your presentation aloud ahead of time. Before you get in front of clients, ensure you are confident with the flow—don’t memorize each word you want to say, instead have a defined journey. And rather than use slides to keep you focused, have a few words or bullets on paper and glance at the outline when needed.
With practice, the process of presenting without slides will start to feel natural. As you become more comfortable, you’ll also find you’re able to deliver a much stronger message—and you might even learn to enjoy it.
4. Use imagery, not bullet points, to back-up your story.
Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist, wrote “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.” In it, he explains how vision trumps all our senses.
He explains that we are very poor at retaining bulleted information, but we are highly-skilled at remembering pictures. If we see words on slides, we’ll recall just 10 percent three days later. But if your screen has just well-chosen images we’ll remember 65 percent.
That’s why you should ditch your PowerPoint presentation. They’re usually filled with text with literally dozens of words per slide. It’s wasting your time and your audience’s time. If you think about that from a productivity standpoint, that means 90 percent of what people read in bullet points on a slide will be forgotten in three days.
By learning to tell a story and back it up with effective imagery, you can save everyone hundreds of hours a year in wasted meetings and presentations. Simply drop the PowerPoint slides and shift to a form of communication everyone will understand and remember.
If you would like to learn more about improving your communication at work you can listen to my new podcast ‘Born To Speak’ on iTunes.