What NOT to say if you want your point to have power

What NOT to say if you want your point to have power
January 26, 2023 Beth Nyland

Lucky you! You get to speak at an industry event, corporate conference, or team meeting.  No doubt, your presentation will include a set of slides. Slides are a de facto requirement for most business presentations. You gotta have ‘em, right?

Incidentally, Jill and I have decided we don’t gotta have ‘em. In Story Mode, we avoid slides whenever possible. When we do share content on a screen, we keep it simple, visual, and directive—showing our audience what to do now (spend 2 minutes talking to your neighbor about XYZ) or later (take action based on what you’ve learned).

The problem with slides is that they open the presenter to so many pitfalls. Typos. Tech troubles. Too much talking, not enough listening.

In a few paragraphs, I cannot solve all those problems. But I can help you avoid 7 phrases that distract or annoy your audience, reduce your credibility, and steal power from the point of your presentation.

Here are 7 things NOT to say when using slides in a presentation.

1. “This slide is about …”

You’re not delivering slides; you’re communicating a messagemaybe even telling a story. The slides are not the point. Your point is the point! If you want your point to have power, don’t talk about the slides. Talk about your subject matter.

2. “I don’t expect you to read everything on this slide.”

Then why did you put all those words on the screen? Limit your slides to the essentials. If the word or diagram or chart or table or image does not serve your message, then it doesn’t belong.

3. “Let me read you this slide.”

Please, please, please don’t read your slides. Everyone hates that, and you know it. And yet, when you’ve agonized over crafting (and securing approval for) a specific set of words, you’ll be tempted to read those words verbatim. We’ll forgive you for a slogan or catchphrase. Maybe even a sentence. But if you want to share a paragraph or page, provide that language in a handout. Limit your slide to a few key words or an image that conveys the essence of your message.

4. “I’m not going to read you this slide.”

Good! We’re grateful (see #3 above). But chances are, you’re inclined to say this as a sort of apology for a slide that’s packed with too much stuff. Instead of making excuses for that cluttered mess, pare back the slide so no onenot you, not your audiencemust struggle to read it. Slides should be skimmable, consumed in a glance.

5. “I know this is an eye chart.”

This is code speak for, “I didn’t take the time to edit this for you.” Sharing complicated visuals is a form of disrespect for your audience and your subject matter. If you care about informing, inspiring, or persuading your audience, and if you believe your message is worthy of a quality conversation, then do better.

6. “Let’s drain this slide.”

Let’s not. When you say this, you equate your content with flushable waste. If your slide is full of stuff you’re ready to send down the drain, then it’s not worth your audience’s time or attention.

7. “Next slide.”

Ugh. Take command of your own presentation. If possible, control the clicker so you can advance slides yourself without this distracting aside. If that’s not possible, then rehearse with your click-master so they know your material well enough to advance the slides to keep pace with you, no prompting required.

Did I miss any?

What power-draining phrases make you cringe during a presentation?


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