Stop Death by PowerPoint. Use Message-led Presentations

We’ve all experienced Death by PowerPoint – it’s one of the most unattractive aspects of business today. As advertising legend David Ogilvy (nearly) said:

most people use PowerPoint like a drunk uses a lamp post
– for support rather than illumination.”

It’s almost as if we’ve forgotten how to present without PowerPoint.

Our team of presentation coaches has spent 15 years analysing presentations of all types – and the answer to Death by PowerPoint is… the Message-Led Presentation.


First, you need to understand what causes Death by PowerPoint.

Over 15 years coaching senior people with their presentations, we see the same mistakes again and again. (By the way, when I talk about PowerPoint, I mean any similar software programme.) You may recognise some of these mistakes:

Death By PowerPoint Cause #1: Using PowerPoint to Plan

To cure Death by PowerPoint, say Death to PowerPoint.

When you hear the word ‘Presentation’ do you rush for your computer?  PowerPoint is not designed to plan presentations.  While you may feel as if you are making progress by creating PowerPoint slides, you may as well be doodling on a napkin.  Instead, why not sit and think for a bit and start planning with a blank sheet of paper? You’ll be using your time much more efficiently.

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Death By PowerPoint Cause #2:  Not being clear what you want to say

A good presentation has a clear purpose. Make sure you can articulate why you are presenting – ideally in one sentence.  If you have a clear purpose, or intent, then you can keep checking that you are achieving that objective.  Most people do not have a purpose to their presentation and therefore find it hard to engage their audience.

Death By PowerPoint Cause #3: Thinking that “the Presentation” is a set of slides

As we always remind people, YOU are the presentation. Your slides are Visual Aids to help you communicate.  Instead, think of your presentation as an illustrated talk. Use Visual Aids to help your audience, not to help you.

Death By PowerPoint Cause #4: Not getting to the point

Be clear at the start of your talk what you want to say. Don’t leave it to the end. Be explicit, be clear. Make sure that within a few minutes of starting your listeners know exactly what you are saying.

Death By PowerPoint Cause #5: Long sentences, too fast and hesitant

Be clear, deliberate and passionate. Make every word count. Use short phrases. Simple words. Many pauses.

Death By PowerPoint Cause #6: Talking for too long

If you can make your presentation shorter, then do. The work you do condensing it will mean a clearer and more powerful talk. Less is more in presenting. Nobody ever says ‘I wish she spoke for longer and gave us more slides.’

Death By PowerPoint Cause #7: A weak end

End your talk with a strong call to action or rallying cry.

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Slides belong in the playground

To put it simply, deathly presentations happen when they are slide-led. If your presentation feels like you are talking through a document page-by-page, then it’s a sure sign of a death-by PowerPoint experience. While it may feel that you are making progress if you create your slides first, you are probably wasting your time. You are more likely to produce dull data dumps than illuminating visuals.

In fact, even using the word ‘slide’ is a mistake.  The word slide means it’s unclear whether you are producing something to be read at a desk, projected on to a screen or just bulleted reference points.

This is what you should do instead….

The Message-Led Presentation: A new approach

Speak a New Language: Visual Aids and Handouts

The key is to be more precise when you talk about presentations. Create HANDOUTS, to be read at a desk, and VISUAL AIDS, to accompany your talk. Make a clear distinction between these two documents, which are as different as a book and a movie. Use more precise language to create better handouts and visual aids.

Stop Death by PowerPoint: The BBA Message-Led Approach: A 6-Step Strategy

By changing the way you prepare for presentations, you can transform their quality – and delight your audiences every time. Our 6-step message-led approach reverses the way many people work.  With the BBA Approach you start with a blank sheet of paper – and only create your visual aids towards the end of the process.

How to stop Death by PowerPoint and create a Message-Led Presentation – 6 tips

  1. Clarify your presentation messages

  2. Write a compelling story in your presentation

  3. Bring your story to life

  4. Develop visual aids that help your audience

  5. Say, then show

  6. Practise your presentation

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The Message-Led Presentation Step #1. Clarify your messages

Too many people give too many talks without a distinctive set of messages.

That’s like trying to build your presentation on sand.

Instead, great presentations are built on clear messages. Messages are the solid foundation on which your presentation stands.

Avoid Death by PowerPoint Step #2. Write a compelling story

With your foundations in place, you can decide how to structure your presentation – the beginning, middle and end. You decide the few big ideas that underpin your presentation and how to bring it to life  (e.g. facts, stories, metaphors) and the method of construction (e.g. mystery, humour, documentary).

The Message-Led Presentation Step #3. Bring your story to life

At this stage you can decorate your talk with creative flair by incorporating rhetorical flourishes and entertaining anecdotes, adding some light and shade to highlight your messages.

The Message-Led Presentation Step #4. Develop Visual Aids that help your audience

Now you can open your computer and fire up PowerPoint. By leaving it until this point, you’ll know where visual aids will best help your audience.

  • Is there a complex process that needs explaining with a diagram?
  • A graph that will bring sales growth to life?
  • Or a few words that will reinforce what you want remembered?

This is where PowerPoint can genuinely help.

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Persuasive financial presentations

The Message-Led Presentation Step #5. Say, then show

When you use visual aids, one powerful technique you can use is to say, then show. For example, you introduce a topic before showing the visual aid that reinforces that point. This technique is particularly effective for demonstrating that you are in control of your material.

Avoid Death By PowerPoint Step #6. Practise

It’s the work you do refining what you say that ultimately helps you illuminate your audience – and avoid the dreaded Death by PowerPoint. Like a great tennis player, the more you practise, the better you will get.

Are you preparing to deliver a Message-Led Presentation?

If you want to transform your talks into persuasive, Message-Led Presentations that you can deliver confidently, then get in touch. We’ll help you look, sound and feel impressive so that you grab your audience’s attention.

In just a few, short hours we’ll transform you to deliver clearly, confidently and with impact.  You can transform the quality of your presentations – for life. Speak to Louise on +44 20 7018 0922 or email to discuss how we can help you become an impressive public speaker.

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Start delivering better talks and presentations today

Download your free ebookFive Steps to Transform your Leadership Talks. It’s full of practical tips and insightful quotes that will help you make immediate improvements to your communication skills, including:

  • Increase your confidence
  • Engage  your audience
  • Persuade your audience

Download your free ebook: Five Steps to Improve Your Leadership Talks

About Benjamin Ball Associates

Benjamin Ball Associates  Presentation skills coaching team

At Benjamin Ball Associates, we help our clients to communicate better. You get presentation coaching for executives.

Over 15+ years the award-winning BBA team has coached thousands of senior executives globally to present powerfully. You get access to a transformational toolbox of presentation skills & techniques to help you become a clear, confident communicator.

We’ll help you create a powerful first impression that hooks and engages your audience immediately, and we’ll transform you to deliver clearly, confidently and with impact.

Speak to Louise on +44 20 7018 0922 or email to find out more and discuss transforming your speeches, pitches and presentations.

Contact us for a free consultation on your coaching needs

Contact us for a chat about how we can help you with your presenting.

Let's talk about your presentation training needs

Contact us for a chat about how we can help you with your presenting.

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