How To Use Presentation Tools To Your Advantage

Poor Slide Presentation

A poor slide presentation will do more harm than good.

For many years I’ve used presentation tools to help with presentations.

Handouts, slides, props and more have made appearances with me in front of audiences.

There were tons of little devices I used to make the presentation more effective. I, like many others, have even used the overhead projector that beamed images onto a screen from those plastic pieces of paper-looking sheets.

On some levels it seems silly to use presentation tools. After all, if you’re confident in yourself as a leader and speaker you shouldn’t need tools to help you speak in front of people.

In my years of experience I’ve learned that presentation tools not only help the person in front of the audience. When used properly, presentation tools can help those in the audience comprehend what is being presented.

Since that’s the goal of a presentation it makes sense to use tools whenever appropriate. 

Business Leaders Using Presentation Tools

One of the most intriguing business leaders of the last ten years was Steve Jobs. He was known for favoring large slideshow presentations.

However, Jobs was shrewd with the way he used slides.

If you look back on a few of the big Apple presentations you’ll notice that the slides often focused on the star of the presentation. There might be a large slide with the image of the new iPod or iPhone.

These images were aimed at giving the audience a “wow” factor. It took the focus off Jobs for a moment and put it on the product.

Yet when Jobs wanted the focus back on what he was saying the screen behind him would go black. This is a great use of slides to emphasize a point, but as soon as the point is made the focus is back on what the speaker is saying instead of what is on the screen. This is a great way to control the focus and attention of the audience.

Using Presentation Tools To Sell

Like Steve Jobs, the best way to use presentation tools is to sell.

Steve Jobs was selling the iPod, the iPhone and other Apple products to his audience. You may be selling a new idea to the executive team or a new strategy to your employees.

Whatever the reason, you’re always selling something during a presentation. Tools can make it easier for you to make the sale.

Tools should not, however, be used as a crutch or as a distraction. This type of use can make it harder for you to make the sale.

If your audience is distracted by what is on the screen or by what is in their hands they won’t be able to pay attention to what you’re saying.

Over the years I’ve learned the subtle timing that goes into giving a presentation while using tools. There are things you should avoid and things you can use to your advantage so your audience remains interested in what you’re selling.

Creating Presentation Slides

By now the ideas for using slides and other tools are probably germinating in your head.

Steve Jobs was one of the best at it. He would talk about how Apple had been working hard to make a change in a product category. He would build the product up as the audience members moved to the edge of their seats.

Then Jobs would present the image of the product on the screen.

It was always a true “wow” experience for everyone watching.

After taking some time for the audience to examine the image he would begin talking again describing the features. Then, after the audience had enough time to remember the image, he would take the image down to put the focus back on what he was saying.

Slides and other tools should only be used to add context to what you’re selling. Images of products can help give the audience something visual. Props can do the same thing.

Maps, graphs, charts and other visual images of statistics can help put what you’re talking about into perspective. Speakers often use research and stats to give credence to what they’re saying. Using a chart on a slide gives the audience a visual understanding of the research.

Business leaders often cite research when discussing new opportunities. Using visuals can make the research easier to comprehend from the perspective of the audience. It’s one thing to hear your leader make claims, but it’s another to see the true impact of the research in a visual.

Too often people use slides and other tools as a crutch. You’ll see slides full of text. Some of the text might be in long paragraphs. Nobody wants to read paragraphs of text on a slide. The reason they might take the time to read it all would be because they find the speaker boring.

Even bullet lists are distracting. You don’t want to distract your audience from what you’re saying.

Slides and other tools are great for giving visual enhancement. Using text can accomplish this as well, but only in special instances.

A new company tagline or a famous quote might work on a slide, but only to further drive home the importance of what is being presented.

Presentation Tools

There are a few great presentation tools at your disposal today.

PowerPoint is one of the original tools. It’s been around for a number of years and really hasn’t changed much over that time because it serves a basic purpose and serves it well.

SlideShare was one of the first online apps. I remember when I saw a presenter sometime around 2007. He was using SlideShare and said he didn’t need to bring his own computer because he could simply “…go online and access his presentation on SlideShare.”

It seemed amazing at the time. I guess it was one of the first examples of someone using the cloud.

Keynote is Apple’s presentation software. It’s very visual and easy to use. It fits right in with the intuitive nature of other Apple products.

Prezi is another cloud-based presentation tool that allows you to add visual enhancement to presentations. It’s very creative and gives you freedom to create visuals for presentations without restrictions that PowerPoint and other slide software might have. If you want something different, it is worth checking out There are free and paid versions of it.

Earlier I mentioned other tools like props and handouts.

These tools can add value to your presentations as well, but again, they should only be used to enhance your message.

Handouts are tricky. You don’t want to give your audience members more to fidget with while they watch. They already have their computers and smartphones. Giving them a piece of paper gives them something else to pay attention to while you speak.

Handouts are great, though, to give out after you speak. They are great tools for providing information that may be forgotten during the presentation.

Props give a 3D effect to what you’re talking about. Architects might use scale models of a new building or landscape they’re presenting.

But again, use props only to enhance your message and be careful with distracting props that can take the focus off the sale.

Tools For Selling

Presentation tools should not be crutches or safe havens for business leaders.

The best speakers (and salespeople) use presentation tools only to enhance the sale. They know how to use visuals to give the audience a “wow” moment. They also know how to perfectly time the use of visual tools so the audience doesn’t become distracted.

Use tools to help you with your presentations, but always remember to keep the focus on what you’re selling.

Posted in presentation skills

Tagged , ,

Written by

  • Rolene

    Can’t believe you neglected to mention the power of the pen! When selling, nothing engages better than drawing a simple yet accurate image of what your differentiation is all about. That in itself is THE differentiator these days, everyone else still use slides. Put away the clicker and demonstrate your expertise by having a conversation using visuals on any surface.

    • Darren

      Yes Rolene, the pen is important. I do a lot of selling by drawing on the back of envelopes and napkins – it’s just so visceral.

      Sorry about the delay in replaying – I didn’t receive a notification of your comment.

0422 670 659

call now!

Speaking Tips

Get the Secrets of Highly Effective Speakers FREE

Get This!