When delivering the Speaking Up: Presenting to Executives® workshop, we often hear participants talk about the fact that their slides have become nothing short of a "ball and chain" for them. Presenters intuitively know that they shouldn't over-rely on slides when presenting to executives, but at the same time, they have an emotional and mental connection to them.
One of the CEOs we interviewed said, "The most powerful slide is no slide. Slides numb the mind at some level. If you want to get people to engage, engage with people."
Now, we know that many presenters will not buy into using no slides at all, but perhaps this list of "rules" will resonate with you.
- Many decision makers will require your slides be sent in advance. Assist in the messaging by providing an overview in the advanced email. "The bottom line of this presentation is..." Add organizing information for the busy executive. "The recommendation: Slide 1; The research: Slides 2-3; The focus group results: Slide 4."
- Front load your presentation, i.e., put the most critical slides up front.
- Most of the executives we interviewed said in a thirty-minute time slot, you may only get through three - four slides (What?!? Only three slides? Yep, that's why it's critical you front-load and bring the rest as back-up.)
- Be prepared with back-up slides. The key to an executive presentation is dialogue and flexibility. You will want all your ducks in a row so you can access the information immediately.
- When speaking to decision makers, it is much more about improvisation and much less about presenting. "The best slide may be no slide at all."
- Categorize your concepts into "buckets" for a logical flow. With systematic flow, comes easier conversation.
- Do not use your slides as a script.
- Put less words on your slides and don't read them to the executives. (It's irritating.)
In addition to the above rules, rehearsal will greatly impact your flow and flexibility with the material. An up-front investment of time will pay big dividends in the end.
So follow a few of the rules above, and you will be able to free yourself from the ball and chain of PowerPoint slides.