Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

Who's running your presentation? You or PowerPoint?

PowerPoint is the greatest gift and curse of modern presentations.

This wonderful device (and its equivalents) has caused the standard of presentations to plummet over the last fifteen years. Why? Because most presenters (I estimate at least 95%) welcome PowerPoint with this thought: Wonderful, now I can look technically competent and I don't have to be in the spotlight. The audience can look at the screen and I can provide commentary. Also, I don't need to remember anything. I'll put every word up there and let the screen remind me what to say next.

In other words almost all presenters have become slaves to PowerPoint - in the process turning their audiences into hypnotised chickens incapable of absorbing the content.

It's almost impossible to be persuasive with wall-to-wall PowerPoint

How to turn PowerPoint back into a servant

Take back the presenter's traditional role, using a PowerPoint slide now and then to support your argument. It's people who sell ideas, not machines.

Does that make you feel uneasy? That's understandable, because it means:

More you, less PowerPoint

Yes, you have to be willing to get back in the spotlight. Which means you'll have to blank the screen between slides, and get back in front of the audience.

To blank the screen you either push the B button on the keyboard (B for black - it's a toggle switch), or make your first slide completely black and go to it at will by pressing 1 then enter. A minute of two of experimenting will show you just how easy that is.

Transform your presentations

More you, less PowerPoint also means that:

  • you'll get rid of almost all slides that contain only words. PowerPoint's real impact is with visuals such as photographs, diagrams and graphs.
  • you'll make speech notes that now and then contain a slide number. (For example, your notes might say this: fuel safety / slide 3 Which means talk about fuel safety with slide 3 on the screen, blanking the screen as soon as they've absorbed the visual point.)
  • you'll be flexible with your slides, able to adapt to audience needs by going directly to any slide in any order. (For example, to go to slide 7, press 7 on the keyboard then enter.) The smaller your meeting, the more you need that flexibility.

For more on how to turn PowerPoint on and off at will, go to PowerPoint tip 3.

If you do turn PowerPoint off between slides, and go back directly in front of your audience, people will come up to you afterwards and say, "Your PowerPoint didn't annoy me. What's your secret?"


About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally-charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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