Powerful Presentations: the death of PowerPoint?

We have been running workshops for both Imperial College and the Future Leaders Trust about how to make an impact when you are giving a presentation.

Quattrain's Natasha Maw delivering presentation training for BBC clients

I felt that I had seen it all in my years of attending Board meetings — good, bad, boring, fascinating presentations — and also managed to deliver a few inadequate ones myself. I concluded there must be ways we could use the years as producers at the BBC, working with presenters and shaping programmes, to improve the creative thinking that goes into delivering management presentations.

I went to a seminar where some of the most classic errors were made – the technology didn’t work, people read what was on the slide (as if I couldn’t already see it) and baffled us with diagrams that were just too difficult to take in. So I began to think about what would happen if we didn’t use PowerPoint: and ‘powerful presentations’ came about.

In both workshops, Natasha Maw and I met some amazingly proficient speakers and so the challenge was how to give them direction to improve their style. The central point of the workshop was to think about storytelling – no matter whether your presentation is about – Health and Safety statistics, or a staff briefing. As former producers, we know the power of a good story and how it succeeds in holding an audience.

So what were some of the key messages:

  • Credentials – right at the start establish your credentials – why are you giving the talk, why will people listen to you?
  • Audience – Know who they are, what is their motivation to attend, how many, their level of experience, what are they expecting?
  • Storytelling – Begin with a strong opening, tell a story that’s relevant to your audience, make it memorable!
  • Technique – How to look confident, breathing, the way you dress, don’t go too fast, make sure your voice is expressive, memorize at least the first part of your presentation, use q cards do not read off a PowerPoint!

Everyone had the opportunity to practice what they learned. We invited attendees to deliver a 2 minute presentation which was filmed and given to them to take away. It seemed that some delegates were genuinely surprised that they did not need to rely on powerpoint and could present stories and facts quite well either by memory or with cards. We also found it very interesting to see how open everyone was to their peer feedback, which they found extremely useful and made them think about how they could change their style.

Some of the comments at the end of the day were “the whole structure has changed the way I will build my presentations in the future”, “filmed presentation with feedback was very developmental” and “know thy audience has stuck with me”.

I think all those that attended were fired up to rely less on PowerPoint and more on themselves.