Home Nico Simpson How to kill PowerPoint karaoke or why bullet points make you powerless in communication

How to kill PowerPoint karaoke or why bullet points make you powerless in communication

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Kevin Smith, a manager at Dell, says: "The audience showed up to hear the expert (that's you) talk about a solution to a problem that's causing them pain, not to hear you perform 'PowerPoint karaoke' by reading off PowerPoint slides."


The point of a presentation is to move people to new action or thoughts. Although PowerPoint presentations can help you in this process, they are very often overused. One of the big culprits is toooooooooooo many bullet points. Too many bullet points become the enemy of the presenter. I have listed five bullets below about the drawbacks of PowerPoint karaoke (I get the irony).  I also suggest what you can do instead to make your presentations (and PowerPoint presentations) more powerful.

1. PowerPoint karaoke forgets life is not linear

Bullet points give life to the idea that a presentation is a linear process. That there is one argument and that you as presenter must tackle it step by step. But, talking to people is not a five-step recipe to bake a cake. Convincing, moving or changing people takes however have many variables.

Do: A presenter needs to stay in charge of her of his presentation. Ask yourself: “What must happen to the listeners as a result of what I do or say?”  Rather than answering this question we often ask: “What do I want to tell them?”

2. PowerPoint karaoke forgets conversations are not scripted

Bullet points perpetuate the myth that a presenter can change a person's mind by shutting his mouth.  If you want a real conversation, bullet points will stand in the way. Scripted conversations only worked in 1950s sales books. Here, they ignore the people in front of you.

Do:  Even if your presentation is a monologue (and we sometimes do that with large groups of people) it must show that you as presenter understand your listeners' hopes and fears. Anticipate the blocking forces in your listeners by acknowledging their questions and hesitations. Do not steamroller over them. Instead, give them a voice. Add a slide with “Yes… but” and verbalise those reservations.

3. PowerPoint karaoke forgets presentations are not performances

Bullet points tempt presenters to give a performance rather than communicate and relate. What's more, we are usually poor performers. Using PowerPoint slides as a teleprompter (to read the slide out loud when the audience can do it themselves) make our presentations formal and difficult to listen to. It looks as if you are mouthing someone else’s ideas like a ventriloquist dummy.

Do:  Rather than pushing an idea, facilitate a conversation. Every time you push, even if you win, you spend power capital in an organisation and create people who start planning your ultimate demise. Every time you create space for honest conversation about what is really good for the company you build personal power.

4. PowerPoint karaoke forgets nobody talks in headings and subheadings

Thinking of presentations as headings and subheadings is like thinking of dancing as painted sequences on the dance floor. The presenter is lured into the illusion that when the slides are finished the presentation is over. Headings are wonderful for exciting literature such as laws, reports and academic essays.

Do:  Use the Hollywood approach:  Put only one idea on each slide and order your slides to make a story. It is all about the story. Think of your presentation as an unfolding timeline with a plot.

5. PowerPoint karaoke forgets each audience is special

Not all listeners are equal. Contrary to popular belief, one size does not fit all. Bulleted presentations say to listeners: “You are all the same.”  It suggests that you think you can recycle old ideas for a new audience. Listeners are tired of re-used canned goods.

Do:  Make slideshows that make your audience feel valued and understood. Promoting audience engagement is the main objective of communicating. Use your PowerPoint slides to stir emotions, wake up a forgotten dream, verbalise intelligent questions and help your listeners engage.

Nico uses his artistic skills and conceptual thinking to develop people’s ideas and to create and illustrate presentations. He is also available to audit existing presentations. For examples of his illustrations – see this newsletter.

Contact Nico at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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