Revamp your presentation skills & avoid death by PowerPoint: 4 tips

Back in 2011, a colleague of mine, Jo was interviewed by Meetings & Incentive Travel about impactful presentation skills. Her advice even then was “not to commit death by PowerPoint.” 

PowerPoint is an excellent tool but as far as effective communication goes, for a long time now it has been failing. It’s a relic of a bygone era. A largely outdated communication method, it can weigh down communication effectiveness in organisations, reducing productivity and engagement.

Thankfully, in 2019, we’re reaching a point where organisations are relying on it less, and instead opting for more up-to-date presentation skills and methods. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has famously banned PowerPoint in executive meetings. Other organisations are now following suit and starting to see incredible results.

What is “death by PowerPoint” and why is it such a danger?

“Death by PowerPoint” is easily recognisable, you’ve seen it and possibly been it….it’s usually characterised by the glazed eyes of audience members, their furtive use of smartphones and trips to the bathroom.

The idea that PowerPoint can sound the death knell for an effective presentation is based on a few factors. First, slide-heavy presentations are often long. While research in the UK shows that we lose concentration after just 10-15 minutes.

Secondly, PowerPoint presentations are usually filled with bullet points of data. Yet, we know that visuals are far more memorable (and powerful) than text alone.

Finally, the majority of presenters that cause “death by PowerPoint” to their audience are not using it as a visual aid; they’re reading through slides like an instruction manual. This is not what we would call “conscious communication” because it completely ignores the audience.

Effective presentation skills do not involve talking at your audience. Instead, you should be engaging with your audience. Whether it’s your team, board members, or external stakeholders, you have to be aware of them, and consciously take your listeners on a journey with you.

4 tips to supercharge your presentation skills & be a more engaging communicator

1. Interact with your audience by imagining it’s a dialogue — not a presentation

It might sound odd but try not to think of your presentations as presentations. Instead, imagine that they’re dialogues between you and your audience. Perhaps your audience doesn’t say anything back to you in words, but what is their body language telling you? What about their facial expressions and eyes? Are you able to sense the feeling in the room?

Actors, when they’re delivering a monologue, are taught to imagine the reactions of whoever they’re speaking to and use those reactions as inspiration for how to deliver their monologue. Try to incorporate this idea into your presentations. How do you think your audience is reacting to what you’re saying? Do you need to pause to let it sink in? What does this information mean for them?

Imagine your audience is communicating back with you and responding to your words. This will help you to make your presentations much more engaging.

2. Illicit an emotive response using visual or interactive presentation aids

If you’re going to use a presentation aid, steer clear of data-heavy slides. Instead, make sure your aids are visual, like video or powerful stills imagery to support your message. Or they could be interactive aids, like Flipcharts, so you can involve your audience in the presentation and exploration of ideas.

These tools are the hallmarks of the conscious communicator.


3. Make a meaningful connection through eye contact, tone and body language

If you’re holding a meeting, make sure you make eye contact with everybody in the room. It might sound obvious but this is a key aspect of high-quality engagement that is frequently overlooked. Natural, meaningful eye contact should go hand in hand with an open, upright posture. After all, it’s difficult to make meaningful eye contact when your head is buried in your notes.

The more open and upright your posture, the more confident you will feel and the more authority will creep into your voice. You’ll be able to project better and instantly command attention.

4. Make yourself memorable by delivering the performance of a lifetime

What is going to make your presentation memorable? You are. If I had to give you just one golden rule of effective presentation skills, it would be to deliver a solo performance. You don’t need slides. In fact, they’re often what’s holding you back.

For millennia, humans have been delivering engaging and memorable presentations without slides. Think of the ancient poets, political orators, philosophers and warlords that roused their troops and curried favour through the power of their performance alone.

It may seem like a terrifying prospect but it’s absolutely worth it. Take a leaf out of Steve Jobs’ book and incorporate storytelling and anecdotes into your presentations. It’ll make you not only more memorable but relatable too.

It’s more important than ever to consider how we can become conscious communicators. Effective communication can help you to stay ahead of the game, improve how people connect within your business and engage your audiences better. So dedicate some time to polishing your presentation skills. If you’re ready to stand out and ditch the slides, download our free eBook Stand out from the crowd, present without PowerPoint in 7 easy steps for a simple guide to delivering memorable presentations without relying on a deck of slides.

The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their professional communication skills with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.

Tim Chilvers

Having led a range of businesses in both small and complex teams, Tim enjoys working with people and organisations determined to realise their potential – those prepared to act decisively and with the conviction required to bring that potential to life.