The Successful Presenter

Communicate When It Counts

Not One Reference to PowerPoint

I love it when irony comes calling.

The video below is an interview between Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications, and Justina Chen Headley, who writes speeches for Microsoft.

They’re discussing effective speechwriting and Ms. Chen Headley certainly exudes a passion for her craft. They talk about the value of storytelling, which I have long believed is the essence of orality (spoken language) and they key to success for all presentations.

However, there is not a single reference to PowerPoint anywhere in the interview.

People engage with people, not with slides. People are motivated by anecdotes, examples and stories, not by charts, graphs or bullet points. People remember stories told by other human beings, not what’s projected onto a screen.

I have yet to see an audience lean forward and focus intently on a relentless march through a presentation deck. Like Ms. Chen Headley, however, I have seen many audiences lean forward to listen intently to effective stories told well.

The lesson (and the irony)? Minimize (or eliminate) charts, graphs and bullet points in your presentations and tell powerful stories, and you can be as effective as the Microsoft executives with whom Ms. Chen Headley works.