Guest blogger Tim Pollard is author of The Compelling Communicator: Mastering the Art and Science of Exceptional Presentation Design (Conder House Press, 2016). He is the founder and CEO of Oratium, a communications firm helping organizations from Fortune 500 companies to law offices hone their presentation and messaging skills. In his decades-long sales and marketing career, Tim has held key positions with Barclays Bank, Corporate Executive Board and Peacemaker Ministries – a nonprofit specializing in conflict resolution. Originally from the U.K., Tim lives in Montana with his wife and four children.
PowerPoint presentations are so mind-numbing that “Death by PowerPoint” has become a standard cocktail party joke. Worse yet, they are completely ineffective at making a message stick, compelling people into action and driving results — including sales.
Still the dreaded slide deck remains, overwhelmingly, the accepted way business and professional presentations are made. But why?
Tim Pollard, CEO of Oratium, says it’s simple: nobody knows what to replace it with, or how.
But the answer is equally simple, Pollard explains: instead of slides, the organizing framework of all communications should be IDEAS.
Science shows that the brain is wired to process ideas. It does not, however, traffic well at the level of facts and data. Thus, the path to truly effective communication – and to replacing PowerPoint for once and for all – is to conceptualize your talk without it as follows:
Clarify your ideas. The best communications powerfully land a small number of big ideas. We saw Steve Jobs do so masterfully, we’ve seen it in every TED talk. Ask yourself: what outcome are you seeking and what argument will lead to that outcome? Therein lie your ideas.
Orient your communication around these ideas. Create a narrative flow in a logical sequence from one idea to the next – NOT from one fact or data point to the next. Facts and data are still important as illustrations or demonstrations of your ideas but they are the supporting cast. At the core, the presentation is about the ideas.
Respect the brain’s capacity: simplify! Even the sharpest human brain has a surprisingly limited capacity when it comes to taking in new information. To respect this, you’ll need to aggressively simplify, reducing both quantity and complexity.
Rehearse, with no slides as crutches. Unpalatable as it might sound, it’s crucial to stand up and talk through an ideas-driven narrative with no slides as crutches before going live. This ensures that you actually know what you’re talking about – and that your message comes out as you’d like it to.
Once you’ve shifted to an idea-based approach, you can use a simple Word document to map out your story and can ultimately incorporate great visuals as complements rather than prompts.