Having a slide presentation incorporated into your program is an excellent
way to engage the different learning styles of your audience. But don’t
rely on your projector to give the presentation for you! Whether you are a
fledgling or advanced speaker, reading from your slides shows a lack of
preparation. To the audience, it means that you are not familiar with your
own material. In fact, a speaker reading from his slides is the number one
complaint that comes up in audience polls.
Following are some tips to help you break this nasty habit.
Wean yourself off of notes
If you know your material, the most you will have to do is glance at the
slide as it comes up to ensure it is matching where you are in the
presentation. That’s it.
*Professional point – never, and I mean never, ever, turn your back to your
audience to look at the projected image on the wall. You lose the audience,
and it makes you appear like a hack. Turn your laptop toward you so that
you can see the slide that is being projected. There is no reason to look
at the projection behind you. Ever.
If you need to read from your slides or a packet of paper with your slides
printed on it, then practice until you no longer have to. Your audience is
there to see you, not you reading aloud.
That being said, you may need to fix your slides. If you are tempted to
read your presentation off of the projector, then too much of what you’re
there to say is on your slides.
You are the source, not the slides
I can’t say this enough: If you are able to read your presentation off of
your slides, then you have too many words on your slides. There is simply
no reason to have text-heavy slides. Your audience is there to engage with
you, the speaker. They did not get up early, shower, shave, dress, and
commute so that they could engage in group reading. They could have stayed
in bed and read. What do they need you for?
You are the subject matter expert – that is why you were asked to present
the material in the first place. Through your knowledge and experience,
your audience will learn more, more quickly, than they could if they just
read a book.
When practicing your presentation, ask yourself two questions:
Does the audience need me? I am often asked to send my slide deck ahead of time, which I cheerfully
do, after I assure them that it won’t help those who don’t attend the
program. If you can send your slide presentation to them and they’d get all
the information they need off of it, then what do they need you for?
Would my presentation work without the slides? If you cannot answer yes, then you’ve got too much on your slides. What if
the power goes out or you have an equipment failure? Do not depend on your
Engage the rule of three
If you must use bullet points, remember the rule of three: People cannot
digest more than three points at a time. Two, they feel incomplete. Four,
and their brains fall out. Have no more than three major points on a slide.
If you must dissect each point on a separate slide, then do so.
This works to your benefit, too. If you only have to remember three things
at a time, you are less likely to have to resort to notes.
Show, don’t tell
If you design your presentation so that the slides are almost entirely
visual cues (photos, clipart, clear charts, etc.), you will not have
anything to read!
An example would be that you are quoting Martin Luther King. Rather than
have a bunch of words on the screen, simply have a picture of the man
himself. Then, you can deliver the quote with all the emotion it deserves,
driving home the point.
Your audience will pay more attention to you and learn more, too.
Use multiple media
Besides your visual slides, you may include a musical cue. You may also
have a handout with lines for them to fill in. Try to engage the three main
learning styles: Visual, Audio, and Kinesthetic (learning by doing). If
you’re doing this for your audience, it will help you remember, too.
Break it down into segments
Another effective way to not only help you ensure your presentation flows
but also engages your audience is to break it up into segments. Here is an
After your attention-getting introduction, begin with the basics – what
you’re going to talk about and why it’s important. You know this, so there
is no need to read anything here.
Tell that personal story that relates to the topic at hand. This is your
story. Have fun telling it -there is no need to read it from a slide.
Next, break down the three main points and give a little bit of information
about each. You’re quite familiar with these concepts, so you won’t even be
tempted to read your slides.
Employ a group activity. This will give you time to set up your next
segment, glance at notes if you need to, and you won’t even need a slide
Reconvene and discuss what the group learned from the exercise. No slide
reading here, for sure.
… and so on…
If you absolutely, positively, must read your presentation word for word…
Use a second computer as a teleprompter. I highly advise against using this
method, as it separates you from your audience. But, if you were told the
night before that you’re presenting someone else’s material, this may be an
alternative to get you through the first try. Do not use it for the next
Imagine yourself in your audience
Be honest: If you were a member of your own audience, you would be insulted
to have someone simply read aloud to you. You would frustrate yourself.
You’re better than that.
If you employ the tips above, you’ll find that the slides enhance your
presentation, rather than become it. You won’t even be tempted to read your
Mélanie Hope is an award-winning professional speaker who is known for her
energy and creative ways to teach better communication. Contact her via http://hopespeaking.com
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