Little-used methods to make the delivery of your PowerPoint stand out

There’s a revolution in the design of PowerPoint slides, but not the delivery.

Most speakers still rely on their slides to cue them. They click, they talk, click, talk, click, talk…

Here are five methods that will make the delivery of your PowerPoint presentation stand out.

1. The Reinforce method

Most presenters click on the next slide, and then speak about what’s on the slide. You can stand out by reversing this order. Make your point and then click on the slide to underline or reinforce what you’ve just said.

Here’s an example of how I use this technique:

“Here’s the main thing that I want you to get. You can reduce your nerves by managing your thoughts.” [click]


I stay silent while the audience takes the slide in. I start talking again when I can see that the majority of the audience has transferred their attention back to me.

This works best with a PowerPoint slide with a plain background with your message written on it in a clear font in a large point size. No clutter.

2. Let the slide speak

You don’t always have to say what’s on the slide. Let the slide speak for itself.

“Here’s the main thing I want you to get:” [click – silence]


This is also effective for single numbers and statistics. For example:

“Here’s the amount of the increase:” [click – silence]


This method asks the audience to do a little more work – that engages them. The first couple of times you use this technique with an audience, gesture to the slide so that they know that’s where they should be looking.

3. Let the slide move

Sometimes the animation on the slide can do all the talking. Here’s an example of how I use it on our presentation skills courses when I talk about previewing what you’re going to say in your presentation:

“Here’s your audience:” [click]

“When you outline the three parts of your presentation it’s like doing this:” [click for animation which makes the boxes appear – silence]

“It’s like opening three boxes in the minds of your audience – ready to receive what you have to say.”

4. The Mystery method

This method uses the power of intriguing your audience. Here’s how I use it:

“Now I’m going to talk about this:” [click – silence]


“Signposting. Signposting is letting your audience know where you are in your presentation, where you’re going and where you’ve been.”

5. The Set-up method

In this method you start by stating a controversial statement on the slide. For example:

“By the look of most people’s PowerPoint slides this is what they seem to think:” [click]


“This is what I think:” [click to make the next line of text appear – silence]


In New Zealand, we have a well-known beer brand that uses the “Yeah Right” phrase on its billboards. We’ve adapted the billboard:


6. The touch-screen trick

On US election night, the political commentators on CNN had high-tech touch screens. You don’t need one – it’s easy to replicate if you know your slide well and have a remote. On this slide, the yellow boxes are animated in one at a time. I co-ordinate touching the screen at the exact spot the box will appear and clicking with the remote – and it looks as if I’m controlling the animation by touching the screen.


Update: Bert Decker just tweeted a link to a YouTube video showing an even more impressive fake of a touch-screen – using a Wii remote:

Final thoughts

To implement these methods you’ll need to know your slides intimately. I have a printout of my slides in front of me so that I always know what’s coming next:


This is a printout of the Slide Sorter view of your slides. This printout is useful because you can get lots of slides on one page and it has the slide numbers so that you can jump slides (use the keyboard to enter the number of the slide you want to jump to and press Enter). PowerPoint doesn’t have an easy way of printing the SlideSorter view, click here for a screencast on how to do it .

Most presenters simply click and talk. So using these methods will make the delivery of your PowerPoint presentation stand out. What  methods do you have which are a little out of the ordinary?

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  1. While teaching some undergraduates last year I had an accident. We’d just been given some new remote clickers for the first time. I had the clicker in my pocket and was making some point to the students. After most of them had noted that down I put my hand in my pocket for the remote and triggered it without intending to; the slide changed. For about 20 minutes I had great fun remoting from my trouser pocket, and pointing at the screen with my finger and appearing to change the slide like the touch screen idea. I’ve developed this now so that for some lectures I stand in front of the screen (which is just above my head height) arms crossed and the clicker concealed. I look upwards thoughtfully to the sky and while saying something like “The other day I was reading a paper on X, and the thought occurred to me . . . ” up comes the slide with my thought. It can be a statement, picture, cartoon etc, and be relevant or an aside, so the effect can be serious, or comic using a variation on your “yeah right”. You lose the effect if you have to look over your shoulder to see what’s there.
    It’s a gimmick, and it needs to be used sparingly, but it makes for variation in presentation.

    • WOW Martin! That’s brilliant. I’m still laughing… can’t wait to try it out. Olivia

    • It’s fun, isn’t it.

      Variations we do on a similar theme are to have timed transitions and animations for sequences or to have a member of staff with the remote. (Thank you Clare, you’re bloody wonderful.)

      I find clicking your fingers or saying ‘magic words’ adds a bit of fun.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post. Thank you for your ideas.

  3. Olivia, I like the aesthetic of your slides (and the fact that you, like myself, abhor bullets). That said, the number of times you should reference a slide during a presentation is exactly zero. Your slides complement the talk. I don’t think it’s wise to refer people to your slides – it takes the focus off of you.

    • Hi Chris

      Thanks for your comments about my slides. I’m relieved! I’m not a designer but I try and follow Presentation Zen principles and keep things simple (but I’m aware that not all of my slides are perfect from a designer point of view).
      I have a different approach to referring to slides. I’m not concerned about taking the focus off me. I want my audience to be engaged with my content and learning from it. Having them engaged with the slide accomplishes that. I endeavour however to have a single point of focus – either me or the slide – not both at the same time. So I will be silent while I ask the audience to read something, or while something moves on the screen. I think of it as “dancing with the slides” – sometimes I do something, sometimes the slide does something.


  4. Olivia,

    Great post. I like how you notice little things like talking about each slide as it comes up. I like even more how you come up with creative ways to mix things up and keep the audience involved.

    The little tip about printing a slide-sorter view was priceless.


  5. Great ideas Olivia, as usual. Congratulations on 1 year anniversary on your blog and few months anniversary as a Twitter guru!

    Wish you added the Black Slide concept here – it is one of the most important to give people freedom from being ruled by PowerPoint. Here’s the link:


    • Hi Bert

      Thanks for adding in the idea of the Black Slide. I agree – it’s a very important technique. For others – do check out Bert’s link on the Black Slide. And Bert – thanks for the congratulations.


  6. Hi – good stuff as usual… Just an additional point about your last suggestion; why not just use presenter view? It shows you what’s coming up. Keynote does it particularly elegantly, but even PowerPoint does it.

    Okay, so it only shows you the next slide in your deck but a/ that’s the most important thing and b/ if you nee more than that you’re in so much trouble nothing’s going to help you! :)


    • Hi Simon

      Yes Presenter view in PP 2007 is definitely an option. I wouldn’t recommend it in PP 2003 – clunky and difficult to set-up. However, I would always suggest having a hard copy back-up just in case the technology doesn’t work on the day. Olivia

      • Serves you right for using PowerPoint! ;)

        Keynote is the answer… now, what’s the question?

  7. I truly love all of the information here! I am currently working on my Bachelor’s degree, and it is requiring many presentations! I now know how to make them better, and keep from boring everyone. Thank you!


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