Grown-ups Don’t Use PowerPoint

Do you get bored of endless PowerPoint presentations? The same crowded slides, presenters reciting chunks of texts, unnecessary effects, and a feeling that you’re not sure how all those words relate to what you do?

'Grown-ups don’t use PowerPoint’ was the message from Lee Warren, professional motivational speaker and leading magician, at February’s Young MCA event. This provocatively titled event addressed the dominance of PowerPoint in business presenting, asserting how poor quality of delivery can be made much worse when this tool plays master rather than aid.

Lee talked us through a number of familiar and infuriating errors that we see almost every day: meaningless ‘Intro’ slides, confusing themes, impenetrable diagrams, busy text, poor grammar and long-winded sentences. All of these common mistakes can detract from the message of the presentation and reduce audience engagement.

And the number one error in performance style? – reading PowerPoint slides like a script. This is a waste of audience time, as they can read slides themselves. Lee encouraged us to use slides as additional information, secondary to the key narrative that the presenter delivers verbally.

Sticking to a few key themes will help ensure a good presentation – there are two that are definitely worth remembering. Firstly, what do you want your audience to do with the information? And secondly, you, as presenter, are the least important person in the room!

Thinking about your audience means thinking about what they need, including appropriate content for the time of day, and considering how this presentation relates to their world. This can be summarised with the acronym HAM PIE – Hearts and Minds need Pictures, Interest and Enthusiasm!

Lee also shared a few simple tricks to keep engaging with your audience. Swap 'I' for 'you'. After presenting a statistic or finding, follow it up with ‘Which means that’. Make sure your audience sees why you’re telling them the information,

Take, for example, a company using the tagline “We are a global consultancy.” What does that mean?  'You are a global consultancy which means that your clients are never far away from advice'. Changing the language draws you in.

Having given these specifics, the overriding message and the common theme was around a meaningful, considered message delivered with the audience in mind which can provoke, excite and engage them.

Lee left us with one brilliantly simple take away – pressing B while viewing a slide show makes the screen go black. At the end of your presentation, you can relieve the audience’s eyes and make a non-scripted point. It’s simple and you may already know it, but the nature of this break allows you to recapture the audience’s attention from the screen and drive home your message. 

By Stephen George, PwC