As a woman, it can be particularly challenging to make yourself heard within an organization. Females can sometimes be less assertive than men, and may not speak up as much in meetings or other group settings. This is why presentations – whether it’s a weekly work-in-progress meeting, a monthly sales report or a keynote speech at a conference – are so important. They give you the chance to demonstrate your authority, confidence and professionalism to your colleagues, thereby confirming your reputation as a thought leader within your business. Unfortunately, presentations are for many women a handicap rather than an asset – and PowerPoint slides could be part of the problem.

There are several reasons why you tend to rely on PowerPoint, but many organisations are moving away from it in their meetings so you need to move with the times. With this being said, let’s bust the 5 myths about relying on PowerPoint in your presentations, and show you how to get everyone sitting up and paying attention.

Myth no. 1: ‘PowerPoint helps me structure my presentation’

When preparing for a presentation, many people take a back-to-front approach, diving straight into PowerPoint and putting all of their content onto slides first, and worrying about the structure later. ‘Having all the content in front of me helps me organise my thoughts better,’ you might tell yourself. But this approach can lead to presentations that meander around the core message, and can leave the audience feeling unconvinced or, even worse, confused. There are, in fact, several steps you should take before you even turn on your computer, to make sure your presentation is as powerful as possible.

The very first thing to consider is your audience: who are they? And what are their pain points? It’s important to do your research – if you’re presenting to a potential client, you might check out their website and LinkedIn page; if you’re presenting at a conference, you might ask about the typical demographic of the attendees.

Once you have a good idea of who you’re talking to, the next question to ask yourself is, ‘What is my core message?’ What do you want your audience to do or think as a result of your presentation? You should be able to summarise this in a single sentence – this then becomes the overarching theme of your presentation.

Once you know your audience and you’ve got your overarching theme, only then can you begin to think about your structure. But don’t reach for that power button just yet – I recommend good old-fashioned pen and paper for this step. Think back to your audience’s pain points and try to address these. Ask yourself, ‘Why should they care about what I’m talking about? Why is what I’m talking about important to them?’ Consider what information your audience needs to be persuaded to your point of view, and try to condense this into two or three key points if possible – no more than five. Your audience may struggle to retain more than 5 key points after your presentation.

Then consider what information you have to support your key points. This may be facts, statistics, examples, analogies or recent stories – try to relate to your audience here, as this will make your message resonate more.

A useful way to organize your structure is using a logic tree, which forces you to stay on-message.

Once you’ve decided on the best structure, you can then think about how many PowerPoint slides you might need to make your case effectively – or whether you need them at all!

Myth no. 2: ‘The more information I fit onto my slides, the more knowledgeable I will appear’

Trying to fit as much information as possible into a presentation, or ‘content cramming’, is a very common mistake. You may think it makes you look like more of an authority on the subject at hand, or that you’re ‘covering your bases’ by addressing as many points as possible. But, the reality is, people’s mental capacity is limited, and all that content cramming achieves is cognitive overload, thereby diluting your message and influence.

Content cramming: a big no-no

As The Colin James Method®’s co-founder and facilitator, I’ve seen it all and honestly, I believe content cramming is the refuge of the insecure. There is a constant stream of information bombarding your audience every day, they don’t need more… they want you to help them create meaning from the information and work out how to apply it to make a difference in their world.

Knowing what to leave out is just as important as knowing what to include, and this is where knowing your audience comes in. When considering whether to include something, ask yourself, ‘Does my audience care about this?’ If the answer is ‘No’, then get rid of it. This helps you to present relevant and useful insights to them. It’s also a massive confidence booster to know that you’ve got information that will help people to avoid a pitfall or gain some advantage.

Myth no. 3: ‘PowerPoint slides help me remember what to say’

You have likely heard the phrase ‘Death by PowerPoint’, and treating your PowerPoint as a script is a sure-fire way to a slow and painful demise for you and your audience.

You may think that reading from your slides is a good way to reinforce information; this, however, has the effect of distancing your audience rather than engaging them. You may also feel like it is a good way to make sure you don’t miss anything important, but think about this: if you can’t remember your presentation, and you’re the one who is familiar with the subject, how can you expect your audience to?

Breaking down your presentation into bite-sized chunks will not only help you stay on point and communicate your core message with confidence, but it will also help your audience digest what you have to say.

Myth no. 4: ‘PowerPoint slides will distract people from my less-than-stellar presentation skills’

If you’re not feeling super confident, it can be tempting to hide behind your PowerPoint slides, so to speak. But your delivery will heavily influence how your presentation will be received. If you don’t appear confident, people will assume you are not confident about your message and will be less likely to be persuaded by what you have to say. And all the flashy graphic effects in the world aren’t enough to mask a poor delivery.

The only solution? Learn the skills of a good presenter and practise, practise, practise.

Once you’ve got your structure down pat, practise delivering your presentation out loud. Avoid trying to write out a speech word for word, which can make you sound unnatural and stilted; instead, use your key points as prompts and imagine trying to speak to your audience directly. You’ll find after a few dry runs that you’ll start to sound knowledgeable and unscripted.

While you’re practising, think about your voice: your pace should be measured, your pitch should be low and calm, and you want to be able to project your voice to the back of the room. Think about your body language too: try to make eye contact with everyone in the room at some point, use the available space to keep up energy and attention, and use hand gestures to visualise your points.

Myth no. 5: ‘Presenting information visually on PowerPoint slides helps with audience retention’

This is not necessarily a ‘myth’, but it’s not the gospel truth either. PowerPoint can be a great tool for presenting visual information – but it may not be the best one for your particular presentation.

When you’re considering the point you’re trying to make, try to think outside the PowerPoint box. Is it best illustrated by drawing a diagram on a flipchart or whiteboard? Could you use a prop? Could you ask the audience to participate in an exercise or discussion? Being creative with how you communicate can have a marked effect on audience engagement and retention.

If you do want to use slides, we find that they work best if they support your verbal presentation with evocative images, numerical graphs and tables, or video clips.

Try it for yourself!

As Sheryl Sandberg writes in Lean In: “Feeling confident – or pretending that you feel confident – is necessary to reach for opportunities. It’s a cliché, but opportunities are rarely offered; they’re seized.” So take these tips, and seize the opportunity to make a lasting impression at your next presentation. You could even challenge yourself to present without the crutch of PowerPoint slides – you might be surprised by the results!


Erica Bagshaw is an entrepreneur, Executive Coach and Co-Founder of The Colin James Method® and Inner Profit Pty Ltd a vibrant leadership development company in Australia. She has spent the majority of her career growing and developing close client partnerships. She loves sharing her expertise on the all things communication.


There are 300 million PowerPoint users in the world and it’s estimated that there are a million presentations happening right now. But most of them are dull or even bad. It’s bizarre and it can really hurt your career.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Once you have got to the the core of your talk–the message  you want the audience to take away–then, and only then, turn to your slide software. Here are two key tips to help you stand out from the crowd.

Think billboard, NOT document

Powerpoint Surgery jpegs for article.008

This is probably the most important thing I can pass on.

People simply try to do too many things with their slides. Fundamentally, slides are for the audience, not for the speaker. Although it’s tempting, they should not be our crutch. Once we understand that they are for our audience, we design them in a bigger and bolder way. Feel free to make a word document to hand out after your talk if you like (although no-one ever reads those documents, in my experience), but don’t make your slides in that way. Build them for the bored bloke in row 33. Nancy Duarte helpfully compared slides to billboards in her book Slide:ology. Imagine you are passing your slides at 50mph on a major road. Could you read them as you drive past? If you can’t they are too complicated and wordy. It’s a simple but effective test for us.

Design your slides, and if appropriate, write some handout notes. But keep in mind that they are two very separate things. If you’re going to produce a presentation slide deck, then do just that–don’t be tempted to make it into a hand-out with a slightly larger font.

Bullets kill

Bullets don’t just kill people, they kill presentations too. Sometimes when I see speakers present a slide with bullet points you can almost feel the people in the room deflate, they may not groan out loud, but they are inside. I’ve heard it said to limit the words on a slide to 33. I’d say 3-12! If you have more than that, then either rephrase, condense or add another slide. Be tough on bullet boredom and the causes of bullet boredom.

Give these simple tips a try this week, and watch your presentations get better and better. Tell great stories, be yourself, and let your slides be your backdrop–not your auto-cue.

Lee Jackson

This article is an exert from Lee’s book “PowerPoint Surgery: How to create presentation slides that make your message stick.” available from Amazon. Lee Jackson is a motivational speaker, powerpoint surgeon, presentation coach and the author of the 2013 book ‘Powerpoint Surgery’. He’s been speaking up front for more than twenty years in many challenging situations. As well as speaking himself, he loves helping other people to speak well too. He is a fellow of the Professional Speaking Association (PSA) and also the president of the PSA Yorkshire region. He supports the New York Knicks, is a former youth worker and was once an award winning DJ. You can get in touch with him here: via leejackson.biz or twitter @leejackson


As smartphones, tablets and touchscreens become more entrenched in business,  our customers, clients and associates want interaction and freedom to explore the information being presented. Increasingly, it’s becoming important to show the heart in a business or organisation. Sharing information, not just advertising, is necessary to remain relevant.

We’ve all suffered death by Powerpoint, being forced to sit through uninspiring and dull presentations

This is where the buzz phrase ‘digital storytelling’ enters. This rapidly evolving culture encompasses elements of traditional presentations and combines multimedia and often touchscreen capabilities to enhance the overall information delivery experience. Through images, video, sound, touch we have a greater chance of evoking emotions and eliciting a response from our audiences.

Enter the new players – giving us choice, flexibility and above all else, new scope for creativity. Predominantly web-based, these new platforms are not only bringing exciting new features to the field but also allowing you access anywhere, anytime regardless of your device.

Flowboard

Free, Available for Apple iOS

Designed to be used on iPad, this app can set you free from your desk and unleash a whole new way to explore the way we present information.

This is where the fun and creativity begin. With its incredibly simple navigation – drag, drop and link content from your iPad, Google, Facebook or Instagram, to create your interactive display or Flowboard as it’s known. The creative at Flowboard have provided some templates to work with or you can create your own. An interactive magazine style publication can be created in just a few minutes.

But here’s where Flowboard truly shines. Not only is your presentation stored on the cloud accessible anywhere, once you publish your Flowboard you can share your content on Twitter, Facebook or as a URL direct link. No more having to attach a presentation to an email or saving to thumb drives. You could even include the link in your email and newsletters.

What’s also special is although you have created it on an iPad it is compatible on any other platform – meaning no boundaries or worries about who can view it.

If you’re looking for a large scale high-end publishing platform Flowboard would not fit the bill. But if you’re looking for a simple way to create some fun, interactive content for a business presentation, seminar or product pitch then this app is highly recommended.

Tips:

  • The better the quality of your images and the more engaging your content, the better the overall look will be.
  • Take a look at the Gallery to see what other Flowboarders are creating if you need some inspiration.

Cost:

  • Create up to 200MB of content for free
  • Premium plans are only $4.99/month and offer up to 1 Gigabyte of storage.

Prezi

Free, iOS, Web-based/Browser-based

Zoom in for this one. Using the notion of presenting ideas with passion and the unmistakable zoom feature, Prezi definitely has wow factor visually, but may require a little more initial thought to make a truly awe inspiring presentation. The potential is definitely worth the investment. Available to use online, offline, desktop or as an iOS iPad app, the range of options is there for the taking.

Take your audience on a journey literally as you move around the single canvas zooming in and out to create emphasis and fit small pieces of information into a bigger picture. Think info graphics with movement, music and videos. Very impressive.

It’s truly amazing how the simple addition of motion really can lift your presentation to a much higher level.

Tips:

  • Take the time to learn how to navigate and familiarise yourself with it, watching the video tutorials provided will make life a whole lot easier when starting out.
  • Import existing Powerpoint slides to embellish, alter and improve. Prezi is flexible enough to allow you to utilise existing work.
  • Once you’ve finished, share your Prezi via Facebook or download it as a PDF/portable version.

Cost: 

  • Free
  • ‘Enjoy’ member for $4.92 per month with extra options e.g. private presentations, extra storage space
  • ‘Pro’ user for $13.25 per month
  • Business options for larger scale.

Creative force, visual excellence and dynamic, entertaining presentations are not the domain of big business with unlimited budgets. They are accessible, affordable and easily achieved. So get creative!

Featured Image Credit: Judith Klein

Emma Wallace

Emma Wallace plays her magic flute and has computer mice following her. Not really – but she has acquired lots of tech-knowledge and business skills co-running regional based IT consultancy, CloneSurfing Technology for over 7 years. She has a passion and flair for shaking things up and loves meeting inspiring folk.

A.K.A @digisquirrel this graphic/web designer, digital artist, digital publisher and  former radio presenter with gift wrapping skills is a little bit different – but what’s wrong with that?