Publications & Products
Volume 1, Issue 2

PowerPoint Alternatives: What to Do When Your Presentations Put People to Sleep

A recent survey reveals that about one in five working adults would rather do taxes, go to the dentist or work on a Saturday than sit through a PowerPoint presentation. Sound familiar? A public speaking expert offers managers and other users of the ubiquitous software advice on how to jazz up presentations and keep audiences from wishing they were elsewhere.

The survey, commissioned by SlideRocket, gauged the public's perception of presentation software. And although the results are comical—nearly 30 percent of respondents say they've snuck out of at least one PowerPoint presentation and 32 percent say they've fallen asleep—the findings do illustrate a serious point. Without adopting a new approach, some of your key presentations may not be getting through to your employees or other listeners.

Nick Morgan, a public speaking coach and founder of communications consulting firm Public Words, recently outlined on his blog a list of things to do during presentations instead of using PowerPoint.

"Stop thinking of a presentation as a static activity where you show slides to a catatonic group of fellow humans—you passive, them active," Morgan writes. "Instead, treat them as co-conspirators in something exciting, educational and fun."

Morgan advocates decidedly low-tech methods. For example, use a flip chart—"just a magic marker and your arm." He argues that the "act of creation" will engage your audience in a way that a static slide cannot. He also suggests breaking your audience into smaller, more intimate groups to play games or design something relevant to your presentation topic and then have them report back to the room.

Morgan also advises using props. Stimulation is the key.

"For most workers ... it's sensory deprivation from 9-5," Morgan writes. "The whirr of computers and the A/C. The hum of colleagues chattering away. The beige walls of the cube farm. The fluorescent lightning. It's amazing anyone stays awake. Offer the audience, then, something physical. Instead of describing the new product on a slide, show them a prototype. Pass it around. Let the audience get physical."

This article is from the July 18, 2011 issue.

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