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Deliver an engaging presentation without using PowerPoint

Deliver an engaging presentation without using PowerPoint

As an author and corporate speaker, Phil Schibeci has delivered countless presentations throughout his 21-year career. He understands that moving beyond the safety of the lectern and the PowerPoint projector can be tough. Here he reveals his tips to engaging your audience without relying on technology.

Imagine catching up with a friend for a coffee and they did all the talking while you just sat there and listened. Your mind would wander off, you might be left feeling bored, annoyed and frustrated, and you probably wouldn’t look forward to catching up with them again.

The same thing can happen when speaking from the lectern and trying to get through every single slide of a PowerPoint presentation. It can create a performance that lacks audience participation and engagement, especially when the slides consist mostly of words rather than photos.

This isn’t to say we should never use visual aids such as PowerPoint to enhance our presentations. The problem is that often people fall into the trap of becoming too reliant on this style of presenting.

I encourage my clients, wherever practical, to move away from the lectern, and unless it’s totally necessary to avoid the use of slides.

If you’re going to give a presentation without the security and comfort of the lectern and your slides, you’ll need to have some other tools at your disposal. These tools should allow you to feel relaxed so you can be yourself while communicating your ideas.

Here are some effective ways to entertain and educate audiences as well as create an atmosphere of fun and participation.


One of the best ways to engage an audience is to share short stories and anecdotes that relate to, clarify and support your main points. By sharing these stories, you’ll be able to speak with some passion and enthusiasm, which will make even the driest of topics interesting to all audiences.


Learn to take your time and have lots of moments of silence by pausing and taking a breath as you work your way through your presentation. One of the problems with having lots of slides is that it can generate a sense of urgency where we can feel rushed to get through all the content. You may have heard the phrase “less is more”. What this means is that you are better off giving less information that people will remember more of, rather than presenting more information that people will remember less of.

We can only take in so much at any one time. So if you attempt to give too much information in one presentation, people will either hit their internal delete button or be left feeling overwhelmed and confused.


Turn statements into questions. This is the biggest mistake I see speakers of all levels make, including professional speakers: talking too much and not listening enough. Remember your coffee friend who didn’t let you get a word in? The way to involve someone in a conversation and create a two-way dialogue is to ask questions.

From my 24 years of being involved in the speaking and training industry, this is by far the least taught and used skill. So much so that I’ve often been tempted to change the term “public speaking” to “public listening”. Instead of telling the audience everything, ask them some questions instead. This creates participation, takes all the attention and pressure off you and places the audience in an active rather than passive mode.

To do this, simply turn something that you planned to say into a question. For example, at the start of a presentation or workshop about public speaking, instead of saying, “Public speaking is uncomfortable for most people”, I ask, “How many of you have ever felt uncomfortable in front of an audience?”

Most of the audience will respond because they can relate to this situation. This has immediately taken the attention off me and put it on the audience. The atmosphere in the room is now one of group discussion instead of the presenter out the front talking to a silent, motionless mass.

By changing your approach to the way you present, your audiences will know from the outset that this is not going to be another boring, one-way conversation. You will also be sending a subtle message that they better stay alert and focused because they don’t know what’s coming next!

Building communication skills is a vital part of your professional and personal development. Learn more about nurturing effective people and networking skills.

Phil Schibeci is a renowned corporate and keynote speaker who has empowered organisations and individuals, both personally and professionally, to achieve peak performance in public speaking, communication and leadership.

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