Presenting With Your Hands Tied

Do you ever feel like there are so many people weighing in on your slides and talking points that you’re actually presenting with your hands tied?

I recently worked with a client who was asked to present to the board of its Fortune 30 company. In preparation for his presentation, everyone from internal strategists to consultants from outside the company weighed in on what data and content he should share. This experience is common when an executive is preparing for a high-stakes presentation. Even product managers and sales reps are handed PowerPoints that they didn’t make, but they have to present. This makes the presenter feel strapped to the slides and tied to the words in the deck.

Instead of feeling like you have to read every word that was included on each slide or in the notes section, use your PowerPoint as a guide. Allow yourself to veer off where you want to. Here’s what I mean by that. Just because it’s not included in the slide deck doesn’t mean you can’t tell a story or share a bright spot about a particular set of data. This is how you can keep the focus on yourself even when your slides have a lot of words. In a high-stakes opportunity, you want to be memorable! So, grab a data point, share a story and move on. The next slide, do the same thing (or better yet, hit the B button or incorporate black slides into your deck).

Even if you’re not at that executive level, and someone adds content to your slides, making them too busy, do the same thing! Use it as a guide instead of a script.

The client I referenced at the beginning was later praised because he didn’t spend gobs of time going over every data point in the slide deck. The board appreciated that he added some humor and stories to all the data.

So, the next time your hands are tied, know that you don’t have to be Houdini to go where you want to with your presentation.