Dare to Be Different — While Still Using PowerPoint

By Gavin Meikle

In the corporate world it’s often seen as wrong to swim against the tide and challenging the way things are done can take real guts. I’ve recently been working with a client to help him transform a bullet point-heavy PowerPoint presentation into something that supports rather than competes with his clear and energetic delivery style.

His concern was that everybody in his organization presented using PowerPoint the same way and he was fearful of taking a risk by deviating from the accepted PowerPoint style.

It occurred to me that there must be millions of corporate warriors out there who feel exactly the same way. They have sat through enough boring corporate bullet- point driven PowerPoint slides to know that they don’t work well, but they don’t have any reference experiences of people doing it differently, especially within their organization. They too don’t have the courage to dare to be different with PowerPoint. If this is you then read on…

Let’s start by considering what is stopping you daring to be different. Odds are it will be a thought or series of thoughts driving this reluctance which have probably never been tested. Let’s take a moment to consider whether any or all of these thoughts actually have any basis in reality.

1. Nobody else diverts from the standard bullet point-heavy formula

Can you be 100% sure of this? Have you seen every single presenter and presentation within your organisation? If there is any doubt in your mind then the possibility that others in your organization do sometimes break away from the limitations of the standard format must be real and so if they could do it, so could you.

2. If I dare to be different with PowerPoint I’ll be punished in some way

How do you know this is true? If excuse 1 is really true, and nobody has ever done it before, how can you know if they would be punished or not?

3. Deviating from the standard PowerPoint style is not allowed in our organization

How do you know that? Have you every seen it written down in a company manual or memo? Has your manager ever told you this explicitly?

4. It’s too difficult to use images and diagrams rather than lots of words

You have never done it so how do you know that it will be as difficult as you think? You’ll never know until you try, will you?

Why you should dare to be different with PowerPoint

  • Ask yourself what is more important, fitting in or being persuasive?
    • If the answer in your head is “fitting in,” then I ask you to really think about whether this belief is  true.
    • Do you REALLY want to be another faceless corporate warrior?
  • Consider the potential benefits coming from being the person known for giving “different” presentations
    • Greater visibility within your organization
    • Increase your chances of promotion
    • Set an example for your colleagues
Dare to be different with PowerPoint – How to get started?
  • Start small
    • I am not asking you to change everything overnight. A great place to start is by reducing the number of words on your slides. Think of your bullet points as headlines rather than full sentences.
    • For each bullet point, ask yourself “Does my audience REALLY need to read this as well as hear me say it ? ” If the answer is “no” then leave it off your slide
    • Learn how to animate your bullet points so that they appear one at a time allowing you to control what your audience is paying attention to. (see  the tutorial on the link)
    • Experiment with fewer bullet points and try replacing one or two with a picture image or graph
  • Start in safety

Go on, do your company, your colleagues and yourself a favour – dare to be different with PowerPoint and let me know how you get on.

About the Author:

Gavin Meikle is a trainer, speaker and coach with Inter-activ Presenting and Influencing, a presentation coaching skills firm in the United Kingdom. Meikle is an accomplished and experienced guest speaker and conference facilitator who has done everything from humorous after dinner events to motivational addresses.  Meikle also is a qualified Toastmaster and a member of the Professional Speakers Association (PSA).

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