No slides. Really. NO SLIDES. Just TRY it . . . without SLIDES!
This post is #2 in my series on 10 Reasons to Rehearse when you are making a large account sales presentation. And Reason #2 is Ditch the Slides!
Where is it written that you can’t have a presentation without Power Point? Nowhere. Yet most teams can’t imagine how they could possibly present without a deck. How would they know what to say? How would they know who was talking when? How could the audience possibly follow them? How could they get enough information across?
And that’s the whole problem right there. Instead of using slides to augment or illustrate their presentation, the slides become not just the backbone but the entire skeleton of the show, all the way out to fingertips and down to toes. Warnings of “Death by PowerPoint” and “PowerPoint Hell” don’t make a dent in the purported 350 presentations around the globe each second!
When you rely too much on a PowerPoint deck, you reduce your impact in so many ways:
- weary buyers expect the worst and tune out
- typical slides have too much information, therefore are hard to process
- speakers usually read from the slides, boring the audience
- you introduce a barrier between you and your buyers
- you run the risk of oversimplifying your story (if in fact you are trying to tell a story)
- audience members focus on the screen, not the presenters
- a natural flow of questions and answers is disrupted
I could add that usually the people who create the slides are not graphic designers, clip art is tacky, and so many slides are re-used from prior presentations that there’s a real danger of missing your whole point.
Worse, using a slide deck is often a way to avoid rehearsing your presentation! Get those words up on the screen, assign slides to the right presenters, and bingo–you’ve got a presentation! A really bad presentation.
What could you do instead?
- If your presentation has a truly visual theme, or you have incredibly helpful charts or graphs to share, and you really believe the slides will add value, then rehearse with your back to the slides. Rehearse with the whole team until you can time your presentation to your slides without looking at them. Don’t fill the slides with words–images only. Practice what you will say about the image on the screen rather than reading words from the screen. Look at your buyers!
- Make your presentation with no slides. If you need a quick illustration, use a white board or flip chart. Ask questions of the audience. Have a director (you should have a director anyway–the person who is orchestrating the presentation). The director can introduce each of you in turn. It’s okay to have 3×5 reminder cards in your hand. But rehearse by saying your presentation out loud so you will really know it and can present with ease and confidence. Leave behind a short summary or talking points. Note: I am assuming you are making your presentation AFTER submitting a written proposal. If not, leave your written proposal, but do your presentation as a summary of your key points. Or give them a hand out with key questions and spaces for them to write the answers from your presentation. It will help them focus on your message.
- Substitute different props for your slides. I made a presentation once about our model for organizational change, called Act-Five. A brilliant graphic artist had rendered it into a series of 3-dimensional images. We created a 3-D replica of the model, and each presenter added a piece until we had finished. We left the completed model for the buyers’ team.Another time, presenting in partnership with an architecture firm, our leave-behind was a 9-inch high scroll that opened to about six feet wide. The scroll was composed of images of the steps and stages in the work we proposed to do. We stretched it out across the room to conclude our presentation and give each of the buyers a rolled-up scroll tied with a ribbon. It was a memorable touch.
- To really WOW your audience, master a formal slide presentation, such as a TED talk ( 20 minutes max–slides optional) or a Pecha Kucha (20 images for 20 seconds each). I just gave you links to two great “how-to” directions for these highly evolved versions of “a slide show.” And here’s wonderful advice from the TED talk outline:
“Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! We can’t stress this enough. Rehearse until you’re completely comfortable in front of other people: different groups of people, people you
love, people you fear, small groups, large groups, peers, people who aren’t experts in your ﬁeld. Listen to the criticisms and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.”
Most people who master these formats use only imagery on the slides, no words, and especially no bullet points.
You will find many wonderful resources about how to give good presentations if you look for them. But all of them will remind you of how important it is to rehearse. And changing your mode of the deadly slide deck is a great way to start!