Preparing slides for a presentation? When was the last time you saw someone present and found them so engaging, you gushed afterwards to your colleagues as follows: ‘How amazing! So powerful how he transitioned from one slide to the next? I’ll never forget slide 10 – the font! And the minutiae in those tables. Incredible!’

We’d wager never. So before you spend the next 3 days perfecting your slides, read Michael Charlesworth’s article – you might find a way to make more of an impact.

How many times have you wished the presenter in front of you would get to the point and stop drowning you in a sea of slides? How many times have the messages washed over you as you struggle to decide whether to listen to the presenter or read what’s on the screen?

Slides don’t make great presentations. Presenters do.

Yet still presenting in the workplace revolves around the slide deck. People tell me that if they were to deliver a presentation to a client or to colleagues without a slide deck, it would be assumed no preparation had occurred at all.

Hiding (because that’s what most people use slides for) behind lots of slides in a presentation is a little like turning up to play a football match without knowing how to kick the ball. You have the boots, the sponsorship, the kit, the hairdo (gelled to perfection) but you have no idea how to win the game. In the case of presentations, you may have your iPad, your charger, your slide deck, your back-up slide deck, (just in case), you may even have the hair-do for all I know but you don’t actually know what’s going to win over your audience.

So what might happen if you dared to prepare – even deliver – a presentation without once lifting the lid of your laptop?

“They’re my aide memoir.” “People would just get bored looking at me.” “The client expects slides.” “It’s just too scary.”

These are legitimate thoughts. And yet, when I ask people how many good presentations they have sat through in the last six months, they scratch their heads. When I ask people about the presentations they can actually remember, they almost always tell me the presenter didn’t use slides. What they do tell me is that the memorable presenter was personal, funny, seemed to instinctively know what was going on in the minds of their audience and that the presenter told stories to get their points across.

So what is the answer then?

You don’t have to abandon all your slides. But put them firmly in their place; use them as a momentary aide to reinforce a key message or point you want to make – not as the focal point for your presentation. Presenting well requires you to engage your audience. This means looking them in the eye (terrifying), talking to them, (eek!), not at them or at a screen, knowing in advance what points you want to make and practicing over and over again – out loud. Always practice out loud. Words change when they come out of your mouth and you need to get used to hearing yourself saying them.

In preparing a presentation, the spoken word is often the thing that does not get preparation. If you do nothing else, the next time you have a presentation to give, practice it out loud and without your slides. The more you do so, the easier it will become. The easier it becomes, the better you’ll get and the more you will realise how impactful you can be.

If you would like to learn more about developing an impactful approach to presentations click here

red10’s next Speaking With Authenticity workshop is on January 27th, 2015.