7 ways to pull your presentation out of the 1980s

PowerPoint launched in 1987, when the Cutlass Supreme was a big seller and ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ topped the charts. If you’re still using those early techniques, it’s time for a reboot.

Updating your presentation

Ah, the ’80s.

It was great decade for music, parachute pants and PowerPoint. Launched in 1987, PowerPoint revolutionized the way we pitch to clients and speak to audiences. PowerPoint is still going strong more than 30 years later, but to better connect with modern audiences, it has been adapted with design tips, sharing options and mobile access.

Have you adapted your style as well? If your presentation is stuck in the ’80s, it’s as ineffective as trying to stream music on your Sony Walkman.

Even if you weren’t around in the ’80s, the odds are you may be using old-school techniques handed down from generation to generation. How do you know if your presentation is stuck in the ’80s? Check the signs below, and follow the tips to modernize your approach:

1. “Let me tell you about my company…” Starting off with a company overview slide is the equivalent of showing up in a Members Only jacket and legwarmers; nothing screams the ’80s louder. Though this made sense up to the early 2000s, when buyers lacked ready access to information on vendors, it’s no longer the case. Today’s buyers are well educated and midway through the buying process by the time most salespeople get in front of them. To start at square one wastes time and causes early tune-out. Sure, you want to highlight key points about your company, but not in your first few minutes.

2. Saving the best for last. Today’s buyers are short on time and attention. They want you to get to the point fast. According to a study done by Gong.io, “Following a linear path or going through a series of workflows before getting to the end result is an unsuccessful approach.” What does work? Starting with the end result—in other words, doing the last thing first, a key concept that applies to presentations and pitches alike.

3. Long monologues. The days of listening to someone talk nonstop for more than five minutes went out with the Cabbage Patch Kids. Interaction is the name of the game in 2020–even if we can’t physically do so right now. Lengthy monologues bore buyers and cause tune-out, but don’t just feign interaction by throwing out the occasional “any questions?” Promote a conversation that keeps buyers engaged by segmenting your talk into snack-size pieces.

4. Death by bullet points. One any given slide, offer no more than five bullet points (it’s the most we’ll remember) with six to eight words each. If you have more, break them up into individual slides or use a handout.

5. Lazy endings. When PowerPoint first came out, presenters just dumped everything onto a slide, including the obligatory last slide with a giant question mark, or “Thank you!” Not only does this ending not differentiate you from the crowd, it squanders a golden opportunity to reinforce your key message. End where you started, with your key idea, and summarize what you want them to remember.

6. The one-size-fits-all approach. In 1980 Nike had 200 types of sneakers. If you didn’t like the color but liked the fit, well, you just had to compromise. Today you can buy any of 475 Nike sneaker styles, or you can create your very own design customizing various elements, which expands the number exponentially. Therefore it’s no surprise that today’s customers expect a customized experience, whether they’re investing in a pair of shoes, a car or a complex solution. In this “I’ll have it my way” market, generic presentations don’t stand a chance. Tailor yours in meaningful ways to avoid being labeled out of touch.

7. Reading directly from your slides. Modern presenters integrate their deck smoothly and naturally into their delivery. Slides support their message, not serve as notes or convey an overwhelming amount of information. So, get your nose out of your notes, and start establishing a personal connection with your audience–wherever they may be .

A version of this post first appeared on the Performance Sales and Training blog.


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