…but I can’t possibly present without my slides…

The pitfalls of slide reliance…

Picture the scene: Just before a ‘significant’ presentation is about to start.

  • Preparation? Check.
  • Slides done? Check.
  • Deep breathing exercises done? Check.

Good to go…and then…then disaster strikes: The computer driving your presentation crashes…and the ‘blue screen of death’ appears. What? You forgot to bring a spare copy on a jump drive? You are stuck.

But you shouldn’t be stuck, should you?

Now, consider what has just happened (in fact, it may have happened to you). Consider the impact it has on you, your audience, and your reputation. Disaster? (well, perhaps not disaster, but not a great way of getting your messages across, that’s for sure!)

Disaster averted

This set of circumstances should not be the disaster that many would expect: In fact, quite the opposite….it should be an opportunity for you to shine; a moment to be remembered. How on earth? (I hear you think…!).

I remember this happening to me…in fact there were a few compound factors involved: I was running a workshop a few years back, in the depths of Winter, towards the end of the working day. Outside; pitch black. Inside; all cosy and bright; me in full flow with the group; the PowerPoint beautiful, helping me bring to life my messages. Then…without any warning, no power. Nothing. And really no sign of it coming back. What to do?

Well, given we were having a discussion about the role of visual aids…and the importance of stimulating the most important sense as a way of reinforcing a message with carefully chosen, easy to digest visual aids….I thought I had better find a solution, and fast! A few swiftly obtained candles later, my trusty marker pen and a flipchart pulled in closer to the group…and we were back in action – barely a beat missed in the proceedings, and the messages landed with equal aplomb. And a few stick men.

How can we all learn from this event?

In my experience, most presenters put almost all of their effort into creating the slides that they are going to ‘present’, to help them tell their story. Their first action after the request to ‘present XYZ’ at the next meeting, is almost always to flip open the laptop, open up PowerPoint or Keynote, recycle a bunch of stuff from other presentations, add in latest thoughts and voila…there it is:

  • Agreed Outcomes? Nope.
  • Considered Audience? Nope.
  • Filtered information? Nope (in fact let’s tell them everything, anyway).
  • Thought of the stories to tell to make it mean something? Nope.
  • Rehearsed? Don’t be silly! Of course not.

As presenters, we are far, far too reliant on our slides: REMEMBER, the slides are not the presentation: you are! If you think of your slides as simple re-enforcement of the main messages that you want to land, then you will liberate yourself from the stress and the pressure of trying to remember what the slide is saying. In fact, if you try to remember a script, you will get stuck if you forget your ‘next word’:

Remember the message not the words…”

and you will flow freely from one topic to another in the safe knowledge that, as the audience didn’t know the words that you were going to say anyway, they will never know whether or not you managed to say everything you wanted to say in the first place! Get what I mean?!

By creating your slides last, not first, they will provide the support you need to deliver your messages. By thinking of the outcomes you need to achieve as your starting point, everything else will be aligned to that. Keep it simple, filter it down to a few (not all!) key messages, and build your stories around that. Now…the slides have become far less significant, and you can let go of them as a ‘crutch’, and use them to enhance your message visually, and simply.

Developing business storytelling skills to engage others and drive them to action is something we are passionate about at Expression for Growth – Presenting

Let go of your slides…it feels good!

If you liked this article, or think it would be useful for others, please like, share and comment, as you feel appropriate.

Alex Selwood

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