Pen first, then PowerPoint: 3 tips for potent presentations

By: Brian Pittman
Published: Wednesday, Jun. 17, 2015

Many speakers struggle with finding ways to promote, post and amplify their presentations.

They have great information and insights to impart, but puzzle over whether their approach will resonate with a particular audience.

Here are three tips for transforming the next presentation you work on—whether it’s a speech, media pitch or even analyst briefing—into a more dynamic display that attracts and engages audiences:

1. Attract audiences—try Wikispaces. Create a page that’s social media friendly for all your events, speeches or presentations, says Ian Griffin, founder of Executive Communications.

He recommends using Wikispaces. The tool allows you to tie together slides, video, transcripts, comments, source and reference material, and even blog posts related to your presentation—all in one spot. It also includes multiple social media widgets, from Slideshare to YouTube.

“The real benefit of a hub like this is you can amplify the impact of a speech before and after the actual event,” Griffin says. For example, he lists a dozen past and upcoming speeches on hisWikispace for Executive Communications. He also includes bio material, images and PDF handouts for all past speeches.

Watch the PR University webinar “Powerful PR presentations: New secrets of persuasive spokespeople, speeches and executive communications” to learn how to script and deliver dynamic presentations while magnifying messages with social media.

2. Start with a pen—not with PowerPoint. Ninety-nine percent of all execs fire up PowerPoint first when planning presentations, Griffin says. He believes that’s a huge mistake.

The psychology is that PowerPoint puts your concept into what looks like a finished format before the idea is truly created. “Dropping a shape onto a slide seems to cast it in concrete,” he says.

He suggests picking up a pen and using sticky notes or the back of a napkin to map out and visualize your idea before turning on the computer.

“Drawing ideas by hand opens the floodgates to creativity. Hand-drawn circles, arrows and stick figures are imperfect and thus invite other ideas to stick in the ideation phase,” Griffin says.

Greater creativity at the planning stage will result in more powerful, memorable presentations, he says.

Griffin also recommends thinking beyond bullets when pulling together your slides. Instead, consider using funny Venn diagrams. They can be brainstormed on simple index cards. Inspirational examples can be found at This Is Indexed.

Here’s a favorite:

3. Think like a film director—consider cameos, stunts and props. Try to find a way to dramatize your key points visually. Look at your content and think like a film director, Griffin says. “Ask yourself: How can I show it and not tell it?”

For example, don’t just talk about customers. Give them cameos. Bring them on stage, and hand them microphones, Griffin says.

Stunts and props are also effective. He points to two examples from his time at Sun Microsystems. Co-founder Scott McNealy once drove onto the stage in a smart car to make a point about renewable energy. McNealy also once appeared on stage in a penguin suit. He took his penguin head off and simply said, “We believe in Linux.” (The penguin is a symbol of the Linux operating system.)

Props don’t have to be that extreme or expensive, Griffin says. A simple spotlight on an otherwise dark stage can dramatize your message.

“These ideas take planning and time so nothing goes wrong,” he says, “but they will grab audience attention and make your presentations more memorable.”

Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and webinar manager for PR Daily’s PR University. Ian Griffin will share more in-depth techniques for executive communicators in the June 24 PR University webinar, “Powerful PR presentations: New secrets of persuasive spokespeople, speeches and executive communications.

Pen first, then PowerPoint: 3 tips for potent presentations

By: Brian Pittman
Published: Wednesday, Jun. 17, 2015


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