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So you’ve loaded up your killer presentation. You’ve rehearsed it. You’ve even videoed yourself, found those irritating quirks and ironed them out. You’re all ready to wow your audience, in fact. Then you press the button to start your presentation – and nothing happens. The equipment’s not working and no one knows how to fix the problem. Time to panic, right?
Maybe not. The truth is that technology is great – but it shouldn’t leave us incapable when it fails.
I’ve been in offices where there’s a power failure and the computers all go dead. Everyone immediately stops working. But there are ways to work without computers. By all accounts, people managed pretty well for the last couple of thousand years without them. It’s even possible to write words without typing them on a keyboard.
Let’s get back to the PowerPoint failure. Okay, you won’t be able to run your presentation: but assuming you have your notes, you can still give your talk.
Here are five things to do that could help.
1. The first thing to do is to be more passionate. Project your enthusiasm for the subject – and for the audience. Let them know they’re important to you and that you care about them. This should actually be easier to do, since their attention won’t be divided between you and the screen. Your passion will energise the audience and get their attention.
2. Change pace frequently. Pause, ask questions, alter your posture. Remember that you don’t have to stand in one place like a mannequin in a shop window. Walk around the room. Smile, laugh, tell a joke. All these things help to break up your talk and make it more engaging.
3. Another thing to try is to get more of your audience’s senses working. The typical PowerPoint presentation uses only two: looking and listening. But that’s very inactive and relatively uninteresting. Ask them to take notes, for instance. They will be more likely to do that as your presentation isn’t running. And don’t give passive handouts: leave spaces for them to complete. Get them thinking, not just absorbing.
4. Help the audience connect with your material. You could even – shock, horror – stop talking occasionally and ask them questions. Get them to share experiences. Get them to participate. They’ll remember your talk for a lot longer if they’re part of it.
5. Experiment with different seating arrangements. The vast majority of talks have the speaker at the front and all the seats arranged in rows with the audience facing him or her. This gives a subtle hint that the speaker is the only person who’s important in that room. (And it gives another hint that it’s time to sit down and tune out.) What about a semi-circle, or even a circle that you stand in the middle of? This will surprise the audience and suggest that this talk will be both different and special.
If you put all these tips into practice, your talk can still be a success – even without the technical magic that PowerPoint offers.
And you know what? You can do all of these things when PowerPoint is working. They’ll make your presentation even more successful.
By David Vickery