Last Updated on April 20, 2020

Who doesn’t remember those presentations where lights are dimmed in order for the audience to be able to see the screen projection? If you do remember them then you surely also remember the dullness and the “falling asleep in a few minutes” feeling which spreads over the audience, while the presenter tries hard to finish reading slide after slide, hoping that nobody would fall off the chair before the presentation ends.

While visuals are not bad at all for a presentation (if properly used, they can emphasize your points and ease memorizing), the avalanche of text slides on the screen is rather harmful:

  1. If you know you’ll have the slides projected, you won’t learn them so well, so you’ll get tempted to read from the screen, thus losing the eye contact with your audience. Imagine what a disaster if the power goes off and you have to tell everything from your memory! Should you be keen on having text slides, keep them at a minimum information (headlines only) and learn by heart what you want to say.

  2. If you disregard the Guy Kawasaki rule and put a lot of information on the slides, your audience will be too busy to read to have time to also listen to your words. Don’t force your audience do two things at a time: watch you and read the tons of stuff you put on your slides. If you feel the need to give them all than info in written, you could give them handouts, but don’t put all that on the screen.

  3. What’s the difference between an actor and a presenter? Both have a text to learn and to interpret for other people, in order to transmit them information (be it emotional or logical). Likewise a bad or just unprepared actor, who needs somebody to whisper him the words, the unprepared presenter shall read from the screen. Don’t you think your public is smart enough to feel the difference? Never underestimate your listeners!

  4. Are you more of an artist rather than a technical person? Then why would you like to embarrass yourself by asking for help because the projector just went off, or because you have to whisper all the time “next slide, please” to the technical person who’s handling the technology for you? Body language can successfully replace any kind of visuals. You just need a lot of rehearsal and maybe some drama classes. Colorful metaphors can be of a big help if properly used.

  5. My boss wanted to embed audio effects in a presentation. So she did, but she found herself in front of people from 10 countries, with one slide which went like “mooooo…” and we were not in the cows business. Actually she had embedded an applause effect, but something went wrong and we had an unexpectedly funny moment. If you decide to use a presentation software, then test everything 10 times before declaring it complete.

  6. If you won’t present from your own laptop (which you actually should, but sometimes it is just not possible), ask the organizers to let you rehearse your presentation in the final setting, one day prior to the event. Shall I tell you here about my other boss who came to a presentation with a flash pen in his pocket only to realize that the pen was broken and he was not able to deliver his presentation to his brand new team? Actually he was new, the team was old, and he lost a big deal of authority by doing a chain of small mistakes like this one.

  7. If you decide to get rid of the presentation software and give a free speech, learn it damn well, rehearse it loudly in front of the mirror, in front of your friends, or even tell it to your children. Or shall I tell you how I got speachless in front of 100 people who came to listen to me, only because I refused to rehearse my speech, being sure I knew what I wanted to tell those people? Rehearse even if you know your presentation by heart. There’s a huge difference between thinking and loud speaking. Take it seriously.

Later update: I’ve just found this funny PowerPoint presentation example at Jim Kukral. Besides the funny side, it is also very useful for people seeking to improve their presentation skills.

How are you doing your presentations? Would you rather overcome the disadvantages of presentation software and use it, or would you speak freely, using your body language to transmit your message?