Effective Business Communications, Presentation Skills Can Be Stifled by Powerpoint

“PowerPoint presentations are a new form of anesthesia and torture. They were even used at the Abu Ghraib Prison.” ~anonymous U.S. military officer.

Every month I attend a breakfast meeting of independent professional consultants. It’s a well-run nonprofit, and the ritzy country club where we gather serves bacon done just the way I like it — chewy, not brittle. Every month, we have a speaker. Nearly every month, the speaker drags us through a PowerPoint (except for one banker, who shunned slides for an unadorned speech, telling us that, in the “interests of efficiency,” he wasn’t going to explain the financial jargon he was using!).

Every month, my distaste for PowerPoint grows. The speaker interrupts eye contact repeatedly, most of us more than one table back from the screen can’t make out much of the lettering, and the give-and-take that should enliven any such presentation takes another nosedive — offering nothing but the illusion of coherence. It’s technology as a crutch, standing in poorly for the good old-fashioned display of public speaking skills that we have within us.

What I’m getting at is that we can all interact with an audience directly and express ourselves in well-prepared fashion. Well-prepared means a 15-minute presentation that you’ve laid out in logical form, as if writing an email to an intelligent friend or associate. Once you’ve got that down, rehearse it in front of a mirror or a family member or a co-worker. It’s that simple. Don’t let PowerPoint obstruct the face-to-face effective communication that serves us so well.

PowerPoint’s emphasis on process over product hit home when I worked last year with some Navy SEALs in Virginia Beach, Va. Back in the states between combat and security deployments, they were on the staff of the Naval Special Weapons Development Group, and they asked me to help cultivate a concise, to-the-point writing style to communicate efficiently with their Pentagon superiors. It quickly became apparent that they were also frustrated by briefings they gave for senior officials, including ambassadors and politicians.

To a man, they hated PowerPoint. As elite warriors, SEALs are subject to constant training — updates on weaponry, civil affairs, language, explosives, you name it. Too often, they complained, that meant absorbing one slide after another, then being pronounced “trained,” as if that’s all it took. They’d appreciate these words from Richard Danzig, Navy secretary in the Clinton Administration: “The idea behind most of these briefings is for us to sit through 100 slides with our eyes glazed over, and then to do what all military organizations hope for… to surrender to an overwhelming mass.”

Against that background, here’s what we came up with for the SEALs’ briefings: Instead of a PowerPoint projector, make sure there’s a flip chart, blackboard or whiteboard within a few steps of your podium or lectern. Leave the lights on and lay out your presentation, pausing every few minutes to walk over and write out some key points. I told them their audience would track their moves and pay close attention to what they had to “say” with the magic marker. In other words, a few salient words or phrases on the board would link them to their listeners in an almost physical sense, with nothing technological standing in the way. (As a side benefit, strolling from podium to board and back is a good way to deal with nerves.)

“But what about all the information you want your audience to take away?” you may ask. “What about all that stuff that shows up on the slides I use now?” No problem. At the beginning, just tell them not to fret about scribbling down any details you throw at them. Tell them you’ll hand out fact sheets at the end.

After all, the overriding goal is engagement and involvement in what you have to say. A good speech or presentation — again, keep it to 15 minutes, 20 at the outside — succeeds if it leads to a vigorous Q&A session. When you speak directly to your listeners, instead of looking away and repeating endless bullet points on a slide, you’ve set the stage for trading ideas verbally instead of passively absorbing one image after the other.

I can’t say it any better than renowned Italian marketing and advertising consultant Giancarlo Livraghi: “The PowerPoint syndrome isn’t just the misuse of specific technology. It’s a cultural disease.”a

Cheap Postcard Printing Is the Right Approach in the Present Situation

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Become a Better Presenter by Practicing Your Speech

In my line of work I do whole lot of presentations and speeches. I speak frequently at press conferences, and sales presentations. Back when I started I used to just fly by the seat of my pants. Generally, I was organised by would most often just figure it out as I went along. This worked out fairly well for me at the start, especially when I was talking to audiences of less than 50 people. But it started being less effective when I was talking to groups of people of four or 500 people at a time.

The pressure of talking to large groups of people makes a little harder to think on your feet. If such an important thing to do is to be done, then it should be done well and to the best of your ability. Often when you’re a presenting too much larger groups of people, it’s important to remember that there is often a lot more riding on the result of a presentation too.

it’s a recommendation of mind that you rehearse your presentation. But I feel quite nervous when I rehearsed my presentation in a room by myself in front of the mirror. So I didn’t do it. But then one day I had a very important presentation to do, and most decided that this is the time and the place amid a start rehearsing my skills before I present them in real life. Something strange happened that day. I started to discover holes in my presentation, where there had been done before. Well, in fact, there were holes in my presentation before, I just didn’t see them.

I went through my presentation. At least 10 times before, I felt comfortable with it. I fixed up the bits that needed fixing and put together a killer presentation that if executed would move my career forward in ways that I had only imagined. I went on to perform at presentation in front of approximately 1000 people, and it was amazing experience. I was contacted after the presentation by some of my peers and asked to speak within their companies and organisations. I realise that if I want to become the best at what I do I need to practise what I do often. I now apply this technique toward anything that I intend to become good at. I believe that if you rehearse anything you become good at it dramatically. Get a few friends together, let them know what your intention is, and have them point out areas where you can improve. Before you know it they will be consuming toward your success, and you will be contributing toward theirs.