How can I make a presentation without Powerpoint?

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When a speaker reads too much from their slides the presentation can be boring

Hi, I’m Shola and today I’m answering the question, how do you make a presentation without PowerPoint? Now I know that this is one that strikes fear into the heart of a lot of presenters because they tend to use their slides, whether it’s PowerPoint or Keynote or Prezi, or what are some of the other presentation software? Google Slides. They tend to use their slides, their presentations, as a crutch and they use those slides to help them pace the presentation to know where to go next and even to know what to say. And we’ve all seen presenters who literally just read the content that’s on the slides, maybe they’ve got so much there that they can actually read word for word what’s on the slide, and that is the entire presentation. And that is boring, right? Because if we can read it, we don’t necessarily need somebody there to actually say it to us, okay?

I suggest either scaling back on the slides or using none

So I always say to my clients, if somebody can get the entire beef, the gist, the value from your presentation without you needing to even be there, they can just read the slides and learn everything, then you’ve included too much information on your slides. So it’s all very well to scale that back, but what about if you have no slides at all? How are you going to cope my dear? Well, let’s talk about that now. So there’s a number of things that you can do to help you if you have to give a presentation without slides. Now, the first one might well be memorizing word for word. I typically don’t enjoy doing that unless it’s a really big speech and it’s very, very important, or big presentation, super important to have it all down. So I would use that as a last resort, because if you forget one or two words, it can completely derail the entire presentation and throw you right off. So you don’t want that to happen. But you can use devices like… Not a device, it’s actually a memory aid.

If you have no slides use a memory palace or note cards

So it’s called a memory palace, and that’s where you associate certain… You visualize a room or a building or a house in your mind, and you associate certain rooms and items in the house with certain parts of your presentation. It’s not something I’m going to go into here, but if you go onto YouTube and just do a Google search for memory palace, then you’ll find a lot of information about that. So that can help, it’s something I’ve tried in the past which has been very useful. Other ways that you can do this are you can use note cards, okay? So note cards can be excellent for helping you when you don’t have a PowerPoint presentation to guide you. And what you want to do is just get those three by five inch note cards, and rather than writing really tiny and cramming it all onto one card, you’re better off just having a few words per card, or perhaps two or three bullet points per card, written up nice and big so that you can easily read it without having to put the cards right in your face, okay?

Include your aids in rehearsal so they become a part of your presentation

So you can just pull it out or pick it up from a table, just glance at it, and it gives you the direction for where you’re going to go with your presentation. So note cards can be really helpful. I don’t see them as cheating or taking the easy way out, but it’s just providing you with a bit of extra support, bit of peace of mind knowing that if you do forget where you’re going, you’ve got something there to help you. Or you can actually have them as an intrinsic part of your presentation and when you rehearse, you know that on the big day you are going to use the note cards. That’s completely fine, absolutely nothing wrong with that.

If you have note cards put them on the lectern but don’t stand behind it the whole time

So those are a couple of solutions that you can use. Other ones could be, for example, that if there’s a lectern or even a table where you’re presenting, you could have some notes on that lectern. I always advise people to not stand behind the lectern when they’re presenting, because it creates a physical barrier between you and the audience and you don’t want that. You want the audience to have access to all of you to be accessible by having your body visible to the audience. So you don’t necessarily want to cling behind the lectern the whole time, because that can also be perceived as being a bit afraid of the audience. But you can have your notes on the lectern and then have a glance, walk out, say a little bit, come back and you can even rehearse that way.

Don’t try to memorise word for word and use aids instead

So you can rehearse when are you going to go glance at the lectern, when are you going to flip to the next slide? Just make that an intrinsic part of your presentation and in that way, you won’t have any surprises on the day. Quite often people say, “Oh, I’m going to memorize all of this. I won’t use the cards,” and then of course nerves come into it, or we just feel a bit less confident than we did when we were rehearsing and we feel we need them, but we haven’t really integrated them properly into the presentation. So things go a bit clunky. Or I did a presentation once where I didn’t have any slides, but I had some A4 bits of paper, like this, big bits of paper. And I think it was in a school. This is a few years ago, and I was standing up in front of the entire five or 600 people, and the bits of paper that I had got stuck together.

Use material you can easily handle on stage, like small note cards

So I was trying to speak and turn or exchange sheets of paper and they got stuck together. So I was trying to make this thing happen, you can see them here, while I was trying to speak and it didn’t come across very smoothly. So I wouldn’t recommend that. But anything where you’re taking bits of A4 paper or exercise books while you’re trying to present, complete no no, okay? The best thing is to have little cards that you can easily turn over one after another. If you’ve got exercise books and you’re rustling bits of paper, that is so unprofessional, so try and avoid anything like that if you possibly can.

Make a final decision about your slides by considering what fits your content and your audience best

So I hope that helps, a few tips there how you can make your presentation without PowerPoint. You don’t have to have PowerPoint or slideware when you’re presenting. You absolutely don’t. And it can be a much nicer experience for your audience when you don’t have that. However, some people will say, “Oh, I never use slides,” and they’re really proud of themselves. But thinking about slides, if you use lots of nice images that tie in with your presentation, or of course, sometimes you may have data to present, sometimes slides are essential and they will improve the audience experience of your presentation. So I don’t necessarily think that the people who don’t use slides are better than those that do, but you’ve got to decide what’s the best thing for your audience in this situation, and also for you to give your audience the best experience of you and your information that you possibly can. Hope that helps, take care. See you next time. Bye-bye.

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Shola Kaye is an award-winning speaker, author and professional speaker coach with clients around the world. Her work has been mentioned in Forbes, Harper’s Bazaar and on the BBC.
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