Death by PowerPoint No More!


Do you remember the last time you sat nervously in an audience while the speaker presented a body of work and presented slide after slide after slide?   They spoke to the screen instead of the audience and seemed relieved to see that his or her speech notes were right in front of him?

GONE are those days!  TED Talks have popularized PowerPoint’s again, but this time, they’re the back drop and not the whole story. They are there to add flavor and personality and humor… and to excite, entertain and inform the audience.

Imagine this!  A speaker energetically walks to the stage and within minutes, his smile, sincerity and authenticity captures the attention of the audience.  His first minute is spent warming up the audience so they feel his presence and catch up with his boundless energy.   He makes a “funny”, tells a joke, thanks the person who introduced him or he engages the audience by having a chat or asks a question. No matter what he does, these first few minutes are all about getting used to each other. They’re all about the audience watching this person and determining, “AM I GOING TO LISTEN”? “Does this person have anything worthwhile to teach me”? “Will I be entertained? Or BORED”?

That happens all within the first minute!

Now imagine a person who walks to the stage and turns on the PowerPoint and starts talking to it.  The lights are off, and slide after slide, he reads the script. ZZZZZZZZZZ .   When the audience lazily wakes up a half an hour later….. !

Which one are you?

Capturing the attention of the audience takes practice but the body of the speech is where the meat happens.  And after the introduction, many speakers rely on their trusty PowerPoint’s to help them tell the story.  The point is to HELP tell the story and NOT to tell the whole story! You will want to have separate notes to guide you. The power point is there to emphasize a few important points.   Keep in mind, all the audience will remember is A) How they felt about you B) a few stories and maybe C) One or two stats.  That’s IT.  So let’s make these POWERPOINTS fun so the audience has fun. Then that’s what they’ll remember!

PowerPoint’s have become so advanced that now with programs like Prizi and Emaze, anyone can produce high end PowerPoints that are beautiful.  These templates will help you craft your numbers or data and make them look interesting. They also won’t allow you to put TOO many points on the page as not to overwhelm the listener.  These programs will help you look consistent which won’t confuse the audience who needs to know you have your act together. The power point should show the audience that you took a lot of time preparing your message and have the intention of entertaining as well as informing!

After spending much of my career helping CEOS, CFOs, Accounting and marketing professionals tell their story and many on PowerPoint, I have a few suggestions that will help you go from the reaction of “OH NO!!!” to OH YAH!


  1.  Ask yourself, who is in the audience and what really do I want them to know? How do I want them to perceive me? How do I want them to feel?  What are my main points? Then write your outline of your speech and start practicing it. Work towards memorizing your introduction so you can do it in your sleep, then  tell the story and give the speech as dynamically as you can.  When you need a story to really pound home a point, then this is a GREAT time for a POWER POINT.  Put a star next to your outline and any ideas that bubble to the surface.
  2. After you’ve gone through your speech a few times, start creating a visual board for what images can back up the presentation. If you’re talking about a project you did in Dubai and it might be a boring construction project, go ahead and put a picture or two in there, but break up the boredom by inserting a fun little story of something that happened WHILE you were there, and show the interesting slide as a side line.  Showing personal pictures or funny and interesting items can really capture the attention of the audience. If you have to grab a creative co-worker to help you brainstorm, then DO IT!  Creative people can add a LOT to a Left Brain’s analytical numbers oriented speech!
  3. In the event you are having a difficult time telling a “STORY” based on the FACTS and FIGURES you have presented on the screen, ask yourself, what does this PowerPoint MEAN? Then in 30 seconds or less, tell the sentence of what the power point is intending to do. For instance if you have a list of clients, then select ONE and discuss it.  People can read. They DON”T need you to read the power point.  And while you’re discussing it, please look at the audience, and NOT at the screen.
  4. I try to have my clients touch all of the senses: TOUCH, SMELL, SIGHT, and SOUND.  If you can use animation to do this then GREAT!  If you have to describe something that smells like: “I was at my job and was surprised one day because I walked in and it smelled like fresh cinnamon buns coming out of the oven”.   Getting people ENGAGED in many feelings is KEY and those power points can help you get people in touch with their senses in a way that entices their intellect.
  5. Some themes that always work well within a kind of dull type presentation when you’re basically reporting something, is to use MOTIVATION, INSPIRATION and give the audience HOPE.  These can be in the form of QUOTES or enthusiastic stories that you share about your company or work of how you helped people.  Other themes that are great to use are PATRIOTIC themes, that will give people a since of pride, or a very quick story or two about an animal or your kid. These have to be quick as NOT to waste the audience time so a 30 second side bar is fun and easy to hear. Going past a minute? That has to be a really incredible story!  People’s attention isn’t that long, so these little side bars will keep people engaged and interested.
  6. Depending upon the size of the room, know in advance if will may have the lights on or off.  If they’re off, then the people will be focused more on the screen and not you. They’ll also be tempted to zone out and pick up their I Phones or Androids to check Facebook!  However, if you do put up something really interesting, you may call the people TO pick up their phones and TWEET About it.  So you can use technology to your advantage and keep them engaged!  Whatever you choose to do, make sure you are comfortable interacting with everyone by asking questions and walking around the room as an instructor would do in a lab.  If you show that you’re flexible, knowledgeable, fun and inspiring, the audience will BUY you FIRST.  And then, whatever you’re selling? It’s a slam dunk!
  7. Practice knowing when and how you will engage with the audience as much as you can. One technique to keep people focused on YOU and not the slides is to do black slides in between your power point slides. Then the audience will naturally gravitate back to you and your dynamic personality! Other things to do is to buzz around the room asking them questions in the beginning to get them used to talking to you, “who are you, where are you from? What do you want to learn today?”  These may or may not be appropriate but definitely plan on engaging where ever you can, and write it into your script so you don’t forget!


Your presentation is now ready to go! You’re there to entertain and inform and your PowerPoint is there as the perfect accessory to back you up and to help you craft and entertaining story that will motivate, and inspire.  Practice this speech many times without the PowerPoint so you know the presentation inside and out. Then add the PowerPoint and make sure it feels that you’ve added something INTERESTING and VALUABLE to the presentation.

Then, when you come out of the gate, and do your routine, just enjoy it! If you challenge yourself to step up to the plate like this? You’re going to knock it out of the park.  Then guess what? You’re going to be asked to present it again!  Why? Because you just became a 1 %er!  You now have conquered the fine art of integrating visuals into a presentation and did it with style and flair!   And now?  You’ll never have Death by PowerPoint again!







The Charisma Coach

Learn How Charisma Can Change You and Your Business

What do Matt Lauer, Oprah, President Obama or Donald Trump have in common?

Charisma! And tons of it!

We live in a video age. We’re judged in seconds on what we say and how we say it. We’re critiqued on our comments and image on Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter and in real life.. Your likeability factor shows up in 3 seconds. Are you ready? Your PERSONAL CHARISMA MATTERS!
Find out how you can develop the communication skills and the charisma to take you to the next level in the business world, social media outlets, or to attract a dynamic business and social life.

Mary is a consultant and coach to leaders, executives, sales professionals, entrepreneurs and celebrities; helping them become more powerful, better connected and more successful..

Get the e-book

Get The eBook

MG Inspired is giving you an amazing free resource, just for visiting our website!

Simply enter your name and email in the sidebar to your right. You’ll get access to download the e-book, and you’ll sign up to receive emails and newsletters from Mary Gardner and MG Inspired.

Transitioning from Worker to Leader

Many companies are founded by individuals who were really great at their jobs. They didn’t plan on being an entrepreneur, but they knew that they were so good at what they did, that they could and would do it better. Often times they start with one customer and grew the business one step at a time.


Somewhere along the line, they had to manage the people. They had to deal with individuals getting to work late or not carrying enough of the work load. They had to deal with egos of the people they hired, and to resolve conflicts that naturally arise when people work together.


Somewhere along the way, they also realize that they also have to cast the vision for the company and to motivate the team to stay focused even during difficult times.  These aren’t skills that they had used before in their positions, and sometimes come up empty handed when trying to figure out how to handle these different but very important issues.


Recently, I had the pleasure of working with a CEO of a midsized company. This individual had had a very successful technology career as a programmer. He was successful finding solutions to complex problems and his customers grew to love his work. Finally, he went out on his own and recruited some others to join his company.


To meet this individual, you’d believe that he was smart. He just looks smart! But you’d have no idea that inside, is a very socially nervous individual who knows that he now needs to build relationships with the CEOs of other companies and needs to learn how to manage high level business professionals who even have more experience in the workforce than he does.


It can be intimidating! Even for a successful CEO.


When we spoke, I asked the CEO to determine where the biggest stress points in his business life were at the moment.  He felt like he had no relationship building skills when he first met a customer.  He always felt his sales staff had the upper hand and he wanted to appear to be confident like a CEO should!  His sales staff seemed so comfortable talking with strangers and he just didn’t know what to say!  Another issue was trying to develop a business strategy for creating a vision for where the company was heading and lastly, he felt he was bumping heads with his team because he knew how to do the work and they resisted being told what to do.


We started with the basics:  How do we want to treat the customers? I asked him to identify to consider the CEO as a person first, and to get to know the other leaders as people. What sorts of questions could you ask them?  What sorts of things concern them? Is it about leading his or her people or is it about the economy? Is there anything obvious about where they are meeting you can ask about?  Or something that you could congratulate him or her on about someone who works for the company? I presented the formula to my client of FORM (Family, Occupation, Recreation, Message= passion)  This is a good place to start when having a small talk discussion with anyone. I also shared with him that many people aren’t comfortable in small talk situations, but that it is important and just a way to break the ice before the real conversation takes place.


Next, we discussed leading meetings and the fact that he was always attempting to solve all of the problems and not allowing his team to do it so conflicts were arising on a regular basis. So, we discussed learning how to coach others. The main point that I drove home was that giving advice isn’t the best tactic because it’s always better for a person to come to the answer themselves and not to be told what to do. So, we practiced ways to get the staff to come up with the answers on their own instead of being told the correct answer. This takes practice, I shared, but over time, can become a very effective tool to getting more and more out of his staff.  It also allows them to feel they have some control over their job which is essential for any individual to feel valuable.


Lastly, as he was shifting into the visionary of the company, I challenged him to be more prepared for the meetings that he led. Instead of just asking for status reports, I asked what leaders inspired him and how they handled things. Then we discussed different stories that he could share about historical characters, or modern day success stories of how other companies were gaining success in their own businesses.  I asked if he had constructed a “mission statement” and did each of his employees have one for their own business life?  What were the values that the company was built upon?  Together we started constructing what will eventually be the mission statement and vision statements of the company.


Growing into the position of leadership takes time, but it’s important to understand that it is a shift of roles from worker to leader.  It may take learning and practicing new skills that aren’t so natural at first, but over time, the investment that the CEO makes in being a more dynamic and motivational leader and communicator, can only increase the morale and image of the company. And when the employees feel good about working at the company, they work harder and produce more.