death by powerpoint

Powerpoint is Dead: Long Live the Message-Led Presentation

April 26, 2017

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 lamppost – for support rather than illumination.”

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

But what causes this reliance? And how can it be fixed?

We have spent 10 years analysing presentations of all types – and we believe the answer is the message-led presentation.

First, you need to understand the mistakes made in PowerPoint presentatiosn.

Over 15 years coaching senior people with their presentations, we see the same mistakes being made again and again.

(By the way, when I talk about PowerPoint, I mean any similar software programme)

You may recognise some of these mistakes:


PowerPoint Problem #1: Using PowerPoint to Plan

When you hear the word ‘Presentation’ do you rush for your computer?

Instead, why not sit and think for a bit and start planning on a blank sheet of paper?


PowerPoint Mistake #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.


PowerPoint Problem #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.


PowerPoint Problem #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.


PowerPoint Problem #5: Long sentences, too fast and hesitant

Be clear, deliberate and passionate.

Make every word count.


PowerPoint Problem #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.


PowerPoint Problem #7: A weak end

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



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.

The Message-Led Presentation: A new approach

Speak a New Language: Visual Aids and Handouts

The key is to be more precise when talking 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.


Avoid 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.


Follow six steps to create a Message-Led Presentation:


The Message-Led Presentation Step #1. Identify 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.


The Message-Led Presentation 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.

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.


The Message-Led Presentation 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.


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.


Help me create message-led presentations



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 Team

Benjamin Ball Associates helps clients to communicate better.

Over 12+ years the award-winning BBA team has coached thousands of senior executives globally to present powerfully. You get access to a transformational toolbox of 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 your upcoming speech or presentation.


Contact us to transform your presentations

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