Tag Archives: PowerPoint

Vince Gilligan, creator of Breaking Bad, with the Presentation Tutorial of the Day

Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Bryan Cranston, and Vince Gilligan (the creator of the series)

I’ve never watched Breaking Bad.  Barely heard of it (though, I have heard the lead actor interviewed twice in recent days).  But here is an article about how it nearly did not ever get off the ground, by the creator, Vince Gilligan: I Almost Broke Bad:  The creator of the award-winning Breaking Bad explains how his show almost didn’t happen.

Here’s how Vince Gilligan described what he had to do in front of the executives, the small and select audience (in fact, an audience of two:  Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, the co-heads of Sony Television) who would decide yes or no on his idea.  I’ve bolded the key lines, for those of us in the communication business, those of us who have to communicate our ideas – and, don’t we all?!

I spent several more weeks expanding my 15-minute thumbnail into a full-fledged, 30-minute rundown of the first episode. This is called a “pilot pitch,” and it’s something you do verbally, acting it out for various stone-faced executives. There’s an art to it: Maintain eye contact, exude boundless enthusiasm, and never, ever refer to your notes. Have the entire thing memorized backward and forward so that you can toss it off with the aplomb of David Niven on The Dick Cavett Show. For me, that’s one tall order. But I gave it the old college try.

So, here’s your presentation tutorial for the day:

#1 — Maintain eye contact.  Look your audience members in the eye – eyeball to eyeball.  In order to persuade anyone of anything, you have to connect.  A failure to maintain eye contact is a sure fire way to fail to connect.

#2 – Exude boundless enthusiasm.  This is not what you would call new advice.  Aristotle referred to pathos, what speech teachers commonly call “the emotional appeal,” as one of the three primary means of persuasion.  (The other two, from Aristotle, are logosthe logical appeal, and ethosthe ethical appeal, referring to the character, and especially the credibility of the speaker).  Others added mythosthe narrative appeal to the ancient formula).  It boils down to this:  if you’re not enthusiastic – very! enthusiastic —  about what you are proposing, how can you expect your audience to be enthusiastic?

#3 — Have the entire thing memorized backward and forward…   In other words, know your material so well, so thoroughly, that it’s beyond second nature.  It is practically “first nature.”  This message is actually you! – you in a message, presenting a presentation coming from the depths of what is deep inside of you.  This is you speaking — the real you , the “authentic” you.  If you are just “presenting a presentation” rather than speaking from the depths of the inside of you, it will come across as a “job,” a job to present “this presentation.”  And such a “job, presenting a presentation,” comes across as a distant second to the person who is able to speak from the depths of his or her very being.

Oh, and by the way, did you notice?:  Vince Gilligan did not mention PowerPoint at all.  It was him:  his body, his words, in front of a very interested audience.  Nothing else.  If you insist on Powerpoint, make sure that it is just an aid.  You – yes, you yourself – are the presentation!

Quite a challenge — and quite a tutorial, don’t you think?

Never Speak with your Back to the Audience – One of Three Use-of-Powerpoint Suggestions

(First, a confession.  I’m not much of a fan of Powerpoint.  I seldom use it (actually, I prefer Keynote), and when I do, it is mostly images, and mostly to introduce my speech/presentation.  So, take this as criticism from one who is not a fan).

Here is the deal.  You should speak to your audience.  So look your audience members in the eye.  Eyeball to eyeball.  You are not speaking to a projection screen, you are speaking to people.  So look at the people – eyes front at all times!, toward your audience members.  They, and they alone, are your audience.

Have you watched any TED talks?  The speakers always look in the direction of their audience.  Yes, they have a pretty big budget, with multiple monitors in front of the speakers.  But the principle is crystal clear – eyes front!

Never stand facing this direction

Recently, I saw again what I have seen too many times to mention.  A speaker was presenting a report to a room full of folks.  For practically the entire time, he stood facing the screen, with his back to his audience, reading the slides at times almost word for word.


So – here are your communication tips of the day, for when you speak with PowerPoint or Keynote slides.

#1 — Never speak with your back to the audience.  Not one word.  Look at your audience at all times, and not, not ever!, at the screen.

#2 — Never have a chart or graph on a PowerPoint slide that is too small for the audience to read easily.  If you just have to have it on the screen, even if it is too small to read, make sure your audience members have a copy in their own hands that they can read clearly and easily.

#3 – Darken the screen when you want your audience to pay more attention to you directly.  Do this frequently throughout your presentation.  In other words, be in control of the eyeball direction of your audience members.  When you want them looking at the screen, then have a slide on the screen.  When you want them looking at you, darken the screen.

Instead, stand facing this direction

All of this should remind you that PowerPoint slides are not the presentation.  They are presentation aidsYou are presenting your presentation.  So look your audience members in the eye, speak directly to them, every minute, every word of your presentation.

(And, read my earlier blog post, A Set of PowerPoint Slides is NOT a “presentation” – a rant)

“You have 3 minutes to make a PowerPoint presentation that will take me 3 hours to click through”

(this just struck me as really funny…)

(excerpted from The New YorkerSHOUTS & MURMURS: CHRISTOPHER NOLAN’S “IMPLEMENTATION” Posted by Gideon Lewis-Kraus).

Leonardo DiCaprio takes a taxi to an insidiously nondescript office building. He rides the glass-walled elevator to the eleventh floor, and as he walks past the receptionist we see only the words “MANAGEMENT CONSULTING” in a thin, sans-serif typeface on the wall behind her. He enters a spacious conference room with a view of a park and sits at a vast, elliptical table across from Ken Watanabe, a white-haired senior director.

“I need you to take on a contract for me,” Watanabe says. “But in this case, instead of coördinating a facilitative approach in the light of the client’s tactical aims, you will take a prescriptive approach in implanting strategic objectives as part of a processual intervention in executive leadership.”

Ellen Page walks a few steps behind DiCaprio onto a roof. He turns to her. “You have three minutes to make a PowerPoint presentation that will take me three hours to click through.”

PowerPoint Run Amuck – (with update from Seth Godin)

I wrote this paragraph in this post: A Set of PowerPoint Slides is NOT a “presentation” – a rant:

Quick, what do the following “presenters,”  John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Barbara Jordan, Ronald Reagan, have in common?  They never used PowerPoint in their “presentations.”

Now comes this (through Andrew Sullivan, as happens so often):

“PowerPoint makes us stupid,” Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina. (He spoke without PowerPoint.) Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, followed up at the same conference by likening PowerPoint to an internal threat.

“It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

This is the slide that made the rounds…

Click image to enlarge


Update: Seth Godin agrees – PowerPoint may not be such a good idea…

A Set of PowerPoint Slides is NOT a “presentation” – a rant

It drives me crazy.

People refer to a set of PowerPoint slides as “a presentation.”  “Can you send me your presentation?” people will ask.

Are they crazy?!

A presentation is – you know – a person presenting a speech, a talk…, standing up or sitting down and opening his/her mouth and speaking.  You know – presenting!

PowerPoint slides projected on a screen are PRESENTATION AIDS!  They-are-not-the-presentation!

I teach Introduction to Speech Communication.  I refuse to teach PowerPoint in the “introduction” class.  Only if they “beg” me do I teach about PowerPoint.  And I teach my students this – control the eye contact of the audience, and never define the PowerPoint slides as the presentation – they are PRESENTATION AIDS! Why?   Because, after you have thoroughly researched, fully prepared, you have to emphasize the voice, facial expressions, tone, — you know, YOU!

Dr. King in Washington - not one single PowerPoint slide

Quick, what do the following “presenters,”  John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Barbara Jordan, Ronald Reagan, have in common?  They never used PowerPoint in their “presentations.”

THEY DELIVERED THEIR PRESENTATIONS! You know, their voice, their words, their facial expressions, their tone of voice, their gestures – these made up their presentations.  No, they could not e-mail their presentations to anyone.  They could not send anyone their presentations.  They had to show up and deliver their presentations.

Yes, their presentations show up on youtube.  But even that is not the same.  It captures some of what happened – but not all.  I’ve heard a few great presentations in person.  I watched Bill Clinton at his best in a huge crowd in Fort Worth, Texas in 1996.  I stood on the second row.  Every thing he did – eye contact, emotion, personality – it was an education!  And not one PowerPoint slide during the entire presentation!

Now, I’m not a complete idiot.  (well – I might be – but that’s another discussion).  Of course, well-made presentation aids can be very effective.  But take a look at any of the presentations at the great TED site.  Not once do they just put up the slides.  The slides are visual AIDS.  On the TED site, they upload the speaking, by the persons presenting, to capture as much of each presentation as possible.

I went to Mickey Mantle’s funeral here in Dallas (it was open to the public).  Delivering the main address was Bob Costas.  It was a masterpiece – I mean, a real masterpiece.  It may have been the best presentation I ever heard.  It was his voice, his face, his gestures.  Not one PowerPoint slide!

He delivered his presentation.  No, he cannot e-mail it to you!

Okay – rant finished.