New theory on presentations: No PowerPoint!

I was not particularly happy with my PDC presentation.  We were asked to rehearse them, review the slide decks and practice, practice, practice.  So I did.  And over time, the presentation got worse and worse, so that a few days before I was to give it, I was ready to chuck the whole thing.  I gave it, felt awkward and self-conscious, read from my slides too much and got very low scores in my presenter feedback.

When I got back from LA, I was asked to talk to some internal teams at Microsoft.  I decided to wing these presentations...and they went great.  My talk on performance ended within the hour, but almost the entire audience stayed for 30 minutes afterwards asking questions.  

So when I was asked to repeat my PDC talk at TechReady (an internal event for our field staff), I said I would, on condition I did not have to use PowerPoint and could do something more interactive.  I expected to be refused, but to my surprise Karsten was excited about the idea.  The day before my talk I spent an hour writing notes, then condensed them to a single sheet of paper.  I took my laptop, but showed Expression and things created with Expression.  I introduced myself with the remark "I think you've all seen PowerPoint, so I'm not going to use it" and got a round of applause (always a good way to start...).  I asked people to NOT hold their questions until the end, and basically followed the audience where they wanted to go. 

My talk was one of the highest rated at TechReady. 


Comments (5)

  1. Way to go!

    I’ve seen many slide presentations in my life, and only one (!) has ever added value to what the speaker was saying. If you get a chance take a look at Dick Hardt’s OSCON keynote at


  2. I made a promise to myself never to show an audience a boring blue PowerPoint. So far I’ve kept that promise and I keep getting invited to do more speeches. 🙂

  3. John says:

    If you really know your material, then a powerpoint is probably just a distraction.. That said, next time, why not try displaying random soothing landscape photographs and see how that changes your rating? 😉

  4. Which goes to show the power of empathic communication IMO: first understand your audience, then make them understand you.  Many (not all!) PowerPoint-based presentations suffer from "forcefeeding" the audience stuff, when all they really want is "to see the cool things you can do".

    I don’t do many presentations myself, but one of the most recent was an introduction to VB Script. I basically sat down with the audience and asked them "what is it that you want to do with VB Script?" They told me, and I showed them how to do it. VB isn’t my forte, so a large part of the presentation was trying out things together with the audience – pair programming on steriods, and a great learning experience for all of us.


  5. Thomas says:

    Stepping away from powerpoint is a really good idea. I think demos and real world question & answer sessions are by far better than force feeding people stuff.

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