Zeynep Cansu Yildirim I am an experienced PM of 5+ years with 9+ years of analyst and leadership experience in software companies, currently working as a PM in an e-commerce company. I am an Electric and Electronic Engineer with a Masters in Engineering Management. In my social life, I like skiing, kitesurfing, boxing, and am a professional horse rider in show jumping competitions.

How to avoid death by PowerPoint with engaging presentations

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Avoiding Death By PowerPoint With Engaging Presentations

What’s the record for the maximum amount of coffee you’ve drank to avoid falling asleep at a meeting? Sometimes I think coffee just exists to keep people alive during a heavy PowerPoint.

Thousands of slides with tiny texts and confusing graphs can suck the life out of your entire team.

In my current company, we never use any presentation tools. No photos, no graphs, and no long texts are prepared to present in a meeting. We consider them a waste of time.

To present our ideas, we prepare simple data Excels (not exceeding one page) with only relevant numbers and cases. You don’t need fancy colors or flying images to express your ideas.

In this article, we will discuss how you can kill your audience with your presentation. You will also learn how to shift your presentation style according to audience and meeting types with real-time examples.

Table of contents

What is ‘death by PowerPoint?’

As you can probably guess, “death by PowerPoint” is a term used to describe bad presentations where the presenter ends up losing their audience. You cannot get through more than 50 slides without yawns.

Bored faces stress out the presenter and pressure only makes everything worse. The presenter will start to skip slides.

The problem isn’t PowerPoint itself, but unfortunately people who have a lack of presentation skills always use this tool. Despite the name, the term refers more generally to poorly prepared boring presentations.

How to detect death by PowerPoint

If you have too many slides to present it means your presentation will end in a wrong way. You can think of it as a meeting. You aren’t going to discuss every important point in the same meeting.

If you find yourself skipping over slides more than once without mentioning any point, you likely didn’t need those slides in the first place. Skipped slides decrease the importance of the whole presentation.

The slides you skipped took your hours to prepare, but milliseconds to skip. You will start to lose your focus.

As a product manager you should know that every presentation should be rehearsed before the meeting. You should go over every detail and take time to make sure it adheres to the timeline. Remember, the rehearsal will be quicker than the real one.

You need to know where to pause, where to take questions, and when to lead the room.

Complicated pictures, graphs and texts create confusion. Most audiences like to read slides first before the presenter explains.

4 common death by Powerpoint mistakes

There are several factors that contribute to death by PowerPoint:

Poor storytelling

It all starts with this. If your presentations lack a compelling narrative or fail to tell a coherent story you’d better get back to the drawing board. 

Without a clear structure or flow, your audience will struggle to follow the main points you are looking to convey and lose interest.

Excessive text

Another common culprit behind death by PowerPoint is the presence of dense, wordy slides that overwhelm the audience. 

When slides are overloaded with text, it becomes challenging for the audience to read, comprehend, and retain the information being presented.

Lack of visual appeal

Even more than ever before visual appeal is key when conveying a message. When your presentations lack visual appeal you’ll quickly lose the attention of your audience. 

Too many bullet points, generic stock images, and cluttered graphics make your slides appear uninteresting and visually unappealing.

Monotonous delivery

Death by PowerPoint can also occur when you simply read the text from your slides verbatim, offering no additional insights or engaging delivery. 

This approach fails to capture your audience’s attention, making the presentation feel more like a lecture than an interactive experience.

Creating engaging presentations for product managers

As a product manager, you have to present things on a daily basis. You present tasks to the development team, developed features to the business team, and metrics to upper management.

I prefer selecting funny images while presenting something to the development team, simple and chic templates for my teammates, and Excel sheets to present management level. Engagement types differ according to who you are presenting to.

Developers do not like to attend meetings, so explaining something to them might bore them. That’s why I prefer images, less texts, and colorful templates to keep them inside the presentation. Most developers will be younger than you too, so adding gifs, funny images, and jokes will be better.

Internal meetings mostly involve sharing knowledge with each other. You don’t need flying images. Instead, rely on good content. The presentation must show them you care about the topic.

My management level meetings mostly use Excel sheets. We don’t have presentations if they’re not required. Our attention stays on numbers and dates.

Final thoughts

Try to be sincere and smile. There may be a big bug, or a system failure to present, but you’re the one who will shape the meeting. Your posture and gestures lead the way, so be self-confident.

Alongside this, remember the following:

  1. Keep it simple — There’s a rule called “KISS” that stands for, “keep it simple, stupid!”
  2. Avoid heavy texts — Each slide should have only one idea and less than six lines/bullet points with less than six words. The rule is called “1-6-6”
  3. Add visuals — Visuals make your audience focus more and understand the topic easily. You can use animations, images, graphics etc.
  4. Move to the next slide quickly — Staying too long on a slide distracts the audience. Explain the idea and move to the next slide before your audience gets bored
  5. Select proper template — Select the template according to your audience. Add diagrams, gifs, and fun facts, depending on who you’re presenting to
  6. Work on your story — Storytelling capability is the key to delivering a good presentation. Some skills come from your personality but a bigger part comes from practice
  7. Share examples that fit their problem — Use examples that your audience relates to. Jokes and examples will help people remember your idea
  8. Don’t lose your focus — Stay focused while presenting. Things may not go as planned, but you still need to keep your focus and stay calm

Featured image source: IconScout

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Zeynep Cansu Yildirim I am an experienced PM of 5+ years with 9+ years of analyst and leadership experience in software companies, currently working as a PM in an e-commerce company. I am an Electric and Electronic Engineer with a Masters in Engineering Management. In my social life, I like skiing, kitesurfing, boxing, and am a professional horse rider in show jumping competitions.

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