You have completed the final draft of your business presentation. Now it is time to practice, and practicing means pulling up the PowerPoint slides on a projection screen and making sure you are hitting the main messages. Or does it?
An alternative view is that the presentation structure is really just starting when the slide deck is completed. The next step in most business presentations, and the first step towards real structuring, is practicing the business presentation without the slides.
Advantages of Practicing Without Slides
Practicing business presentations without PowerPoint slides has several benefits.
1. Effective Communications
By delivering a presentation without relying on slides, presenters are forced to focus on the overall presentation rather than on how to deliver each slide individually. That means getting your brain wrapped around making the opening and closing effective, concentrating on whether key messages are included in all components of the presentation, and whether you are telling the story you intend to tell.
2. Increased Engagement
Without PowerPoint slides, you are forced to consider the audience's experience and interactions, such as asking questions, seeking feedback, and facilitating discussions. Increased engagement, without the crutch of slides, makes business presentations more memorable and impactful.
Presenting without slides produces more confidence in tailoring key thoughts on the fly and adjusting to the audience's reactions and needs. This flexibility makes the presentation more relevant and personalized, increasing its effectiveness.
4. Script (and Timing)
Practicing without PowerPoint slides creates a greater reliance on the script, and specifically having a script. Most presenters can effectively speak 1000 to 1200 words in ten minutes. And ten minutes is about all the time you can expect to have in a business presentation. Developing and following a script is the most effective way to be concise and respectful (stay within your time!).
Yes, we are often taught to practice without slides in case of a technology problem. But if you have a seeing or hearing impairment, the "technology" is never truly working. Practicing without slides lets you focus on the structure that will make your presentations accessible to all.
Communicating with FINESSE Example
In June, Microsoft PowerPoint went down on the presenter's (JD Solomon) computer right before the CWF online webinar. Given the international nature of the audience in different time zones, rescheduling was not practical or possible. The presenter delivered the presentation in a conversational style, without slides for the audience or himself.
The presenter could do that because he had delivered this presentation many times, right? Wrong.
The presentation was developed using a three-act structure and a script. The slides were added later as supporting material. The presenter could recall the structure, the key messages within the opening, main body, and closing, and roughly how many words were available in each section. Practicing and delivering the presentation without slides was not a big deal.
Moving Forward with FINESSE
Business presentations are improved by practicing without PowerPoint slides. The decision to use or avoid PowerPoint slides in business presentations should consider the specific context, goals, and preferences of both the presenter and the audience. This article provides five reasons that practicing without slides is an advisable approach, especially as it relates to the overall structure of the business presentation.
The first S in FINESSE stands for Structure.
JD Solomon contributed to this article.
Communicating with FINESSE is a not-for-profit community of technical professionals dedicated to being highly effective communicators and facilitators. Learn more about our publications, webinars, and workshops. Join the community for free.