Break out of PowerPoint prison

Break out of PowerPoint prison
May 25, 2012 Beth Nyland

Especially in corporate conference rooms, today’s presenters seem convinced that they cannot speak without PowerPoint. Locked into decks of slides full of bullet points and clip art, these speakers—and their listeners—are missing opportunities to connect and communicate.

You can make your point without PowerPoint. Your message may have even greater power if you embrace one of these alternatives:

> Presence. Typically, you’re asked to speak about topics you know by heart: a project you’ve been immersed in for months, an expertise you’ve developed over a lifetime, a belief you hold dearly. Do you really need bullet points to recall and reinforce something you know so well? Ditch the PowerPoint, be fully present, make eye contact and tell people what you know. Then make it a conversation by taking questions and comments.

> Prezi. This easy-to-use software “makes your presentation zoom.” Simply sign in to the web-based application and start telling your story on a single, endless canvas. You can pan out to show the big picture, zoom in to emphasize details, and move from one point to another to show connections. Recently, the developers even introduced a tool that allows you to import existing content from PowerPoint. Prezi is a dynamic, interactive way to lend visual support to your presentation. Hard to imagine? Here’s a sample Prezi I created while learning to use the tool.

> Pictures. Just one perfect image may be enough to reinforce your point. Last year, MIT neuroscientists found that “the most memorable photos are those that contain people.” I’ll go one further and suggest you choose photos of humans who are important to you or your listeners. I may not remember all 12 items in your text-heavy, bulleted list about the importance of investing in safe equipment; but I will never forget that photo of your toddler’s face, all scraped and bruised after her tumble from a bargain umbrella stroller.

> Props. You don’t have to go as far as Carrot Top or Gallagher, but a visual aid could be the perfect way to illustrate your point—especially if you want to draw an analogy between your topic and a three-dimensional object. Want to convince me that innovation is like an orange? Show me the fruit. Peel it. Section it. Take a bite. Demonstrate your logic in 3-D. For even more impact, let people touch or interact with the object. I watched one masterful presenter address 250 colleagues who were joining a multi-cultural, global team; he gave every one of us a banana to peel. Through our own actions, we demonstrated his point: there is more than one way to get an effective result. We all shared a memorable, tactile learning experience.

Break the bars of your PowerPoint prison. Try one of these ideas or some other creative approach.

TELL ME: What other options do you suggest for speakers who want to liberate their messages from PowerPoint? (And if you absolutely, positively cannot walk away from PowerPoint, for heaven’s sake, start fresh. More on that in a future post … )

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