How to use PowerPoint – Advice for Expert Speakers

October 8, 2008

An Urgent Message for ‘Experts’ who speak to generate business:

The multi-coloured hotel carpet is holding my attention more than the earnest expert before us. Someone slay me now so I don’t have to witness this speaking horror: it’s the reading of the PowerPoint slides. Every slide is printed (no contact information anywhere) and stapled into a single-sided, 70-page package. I’ve walked the barren ground of a clear-cut forest. What tree reached for the sun only to be cut down and turned into a toss away handout? The gentle swishing sound of pages being flipped tells me I’m surrounded by colleagues surreptitiously checking to see if continued attentiveness is warranted. People know the precise time because there’s a whole lot of watch checking going on. Not me; I’m writing this.

If you are a subject matter expert and you give speeches, I have news for you. An information dump creates resentment, boredom and frustration in your audience. We’ll forgive you because you are an expert, but you’ve just shown that a: you are more comfortable with content then connection (So what would it be like to work with you?) and b: you are far from green on the rainbow of environmental concern.

When I watched Apple co-founder Guy Kawaski speak, I wasn’t looking at the carpet or my watch. He used three slides, one word per slide. Less really is more. Audiences have ADD and AIN; they continually ask themselves are you worth my ‘Attention Investment or Not?’ If you want to be of value, you need to know what they need to know.  Time and attention pressures are creating a relevance revolution. Be sure that what you want to say does not get in the way of what your audience needs to hear..

Here are Four Strategies to Earn Your Audience’s Attention and Investment:

  • Call a few audience members ahead of time and ask them what knowledge would be of most value. Or ask the sponsoring organization to send out a short, pre-presentation survey before your talk ( you can create a short one at Open your talk by showing the results and speak directly to their top concerns. Or…
  • Arrive ahead of time and post hot topics on a flip chart. As people enter, ask them to check off or place dots beside their top two concerns. This gives you your agenda and an added bonus of interacting with your audience before you begin. People do business with people they feel they know. For you shy experts, this is a structured way to connect. Alternately, you can…
  • Pass out cue cards and ask for written questions. This is a great technique for a small breakfast networking event. Read and sort the questions over breakfast and your are ready to go. Finally for a larger group you can…
  • Ask for questions from the floor. To involve your audience, even those who will never ask a question out loud, ask people to turn to the person next to them and come up with their burning question regarding your expertise. Then ask, ‘Who heard a good question?’ Use your laptop connected to a projector so you or an assistant can type out the questions for all to see. If it is a more casual event, a flip chart will work just fine. If you are in a high tech environment you can have participants text their questions. You are welcome to re-arrange the order of the questions to open and close with your favorite anecdotes or call to action.Whatever method you use, your audience-generated agenda shows that you are accessible, flexible and confident.

We don’t need more information; we barely have time to implement what we know. Align your remarks with your audience’s needs and you will bank on their gratitude. Be green and you’ll deposit goodwill.


Are you or your business reaching the fullest potential?

If it is not your genius it is not your job.
Louise B. Karch