Monday, July 30, 2012

How to fly without slides: 4 tactics for speakers

In a recent presentation I gave at a government agency on the new rules for public speaking, I encouraged my audience to consider opportunities to "fly without slides" where possible, using storytelling and other tactics to put their points across. But for many speakers, flying without slides feels like walking on the wings of a plane in flight--too risky for most to attempt. How to pull off what seems like a stunt?

I don't suggest flying without slides as a stunt, by any means--and slides do have their place in some presentations. But if you're a slide-bound presenter who uses them without thinking about why you do, flying without slides is worth trying. Here are four tactics to make the flight smoother:
  1. Skip the announcement slides that make an outline: You can drop the section headers right away, along with the thank you, about you, and intro slides--most of which are just there to push you along, rather than your audience. We can just listen to you thank the organizers and tell us about you--we don't need a slide to help. And you should know your transitions without help from the slides.
  2. Plan a message you can remember without slides: Too many presenters use slides as electronic cue cards. Plan a three-part message that gives you an outline easy to recall. The bonus: If you can remember it, so can your audience. If you're telling a story, make sure it has an arc you can recall. One effective speaker I've seen recently tied his story to his own life--"something I knew I could recall," he told me. Start out by making it memorable, and you may find you don't need the slides.
  3. Plan sections of your talk for which no slides are needed: If you need to ease your way into slidelessness, plan sections of your talk more dependent on audience interaction, and step away from the slides for those activities. In my own workshops on speaking and presenting, we use more slides in the morning, when I'm teaching principles, followed by almost none in the afternoon, which is devoted to hands-on learning. This is one step toward thinking about why and when you use slides, and making them purposeful, rather than an assumption.
  4. Use the invisible visual, my term for word pictures and images that your audience can "see" in their minds' eyes. That means using precise, vivid words and "drawing" a picture as you talk, verbally sketching something they can readily imagine. Such a visual is always going to be more memorable for your audience than any slide could be.
What are your tricks and tactics for flying without slides? Share them in the comments, please.