When the moment comes to deliver a sales pitch or propose a project, all too many speech-shy professionals fall back on what may be the modern world’s most tedious way to present an idea: PowerPoint.
Speech coaches say there’s no better tool for turning a slide show into a drag.
“I myself like PowerPoint, I just don’t like what people do with it,” bemoans Elayne Snyder, public speaking expert. “They put a whole bunch of stuff up on the screen, which is the worse thing there is to do.”
Cramming your slides with fine text could make your PowerPoint feel power pointless. To avoid the temptation, script your speech on a scrap of paper.
“Don’t put together your presentation in PowerPoint,” speech coach Patricia Fripp recommends. “Build it on a pad of paper, a white board, or on a flip chart, and then ask yourself, where absolutely must I add the PowerPoint?”
With a good script, you might be surprised how little you need it.
“If you’re engaging the audience, and you’re telling a story, you won’t need PowerPoint,” she says. “But if you’re looking to illustrate a point, you might want to have a chart, or a graph, or a diagram. Or, if it’s a learning session, you just put bullet points of what you want people to remember.”
One of the biggest dangers in using a slide show in a pitch isn’t what it does to your speech — it’s what it does to your body language.
“When delivering the presentation, never look at the screen,” Snyder stresses. “People don’t want to see the back of your head.”
Fixating your eyes on the audience in front of you conveys confidence, she adds. And long after that audience has forgotten the contents of slide 27 — or how quirky the animated .gif was on slide 42 – they will remember the impression they took away of you.
“A speech is all about building rapport with the audience,” Fripp concurs. “If the audience is reading your PowerPoint, then they can’t listen and pay attention to you.”