Book review: How to Make a Point Without Powerpoint by Douglas Kruger

How to Make a Point Without Powerpoint By Douglas Kruger (first published in 2015 by Penguin Books).

Douglas Kruger’s How to Make Your Point Without PowerPoint was so insightful that I read it twice. Once, to get a sense of the author’s philosophies and to make the most of his theatrical lyrical style. And the second time, to take some notes.

The book – Kruger’s sixth in 11 years– is full of nuggets like this: “One of PowerPoint’s great downfalls is that, no matter how well you use its myriad neat tricks, everyone else is using it too. And so even the most trained and effective PowerPoint devotees are merely marginally more developed sheep.”

I’m a sheep. You’re a sheep. We’re sheep. Agreed. PowerPoint sucks. It makes people (both audiences and presenters) want to kill themselves with a sharpened pencil. We all know this. And yet we use it anyway. Because: what else is out there?

Well, says Kruger, there are different, alternative methods of delivery. Props. Video. Music. Sound. Live voice. Choreography. Drama. Games. Rewards. Even breakage.

There are also many tricks of the professional presenter’s trade, like (and I’ve tried all four of these myself, so I know that they work) ‘One Strong Message Only’, ‘ Three Key Points Only’, ‘Story-Telling’, and ‘a Problem-Solution Structure’.

To illustrate, here’s my paraphrasing of Kruger on a problem-solution structure:

Sell the problem.

Whenever you speak, you’re trying to sell a solution (or idea or concept or notion). There’s always a point. There’s always a purpose. You just need to emotionalise the problem before you can properly ‘sell’ the solution.

For example: If you’re a financial planner, don’t tell your audience how to manage their money. Rather create an emotional picture of what it looks like when it all goes wrong. Get them emotionally invested in the gravity of the problem.

Here’s the formula: CONTEXTUALISE. EMOTIONALISE. SELL. And the next time you present an idea, don’t start with the idea. Start with the pain. Sell the problem effectively and make the listener crave your solution.

How does Kruger know all this stuff? He’s an expert. A five-time South African public speaking champion, a creator of 150+ articles and a full-time professional speaker who’s known for his ability to engage and persuade, lead and sell, explain and excite.

Kruger is also a master at the localised example, and his little book is full of relevant anecdotes based on his experience consulting to real South African companies.

Now, Kruger accepts that some readers will continue to use PowerPoint. The powers-that-be might require it, for instance. But even those poor souls are not cast into the cold, because How to Make Your Point has four chapters of tips for that (dire) scenario: ‘How to Use It Well If You Must, ‘Designing Slides According to a Hierarchy’, ‘Slides Should Be the Itch, Not the Scratch’ and ‘Using Visual Metaphors’.

Bottom line? If you use PowerPoint (and you want to stop, or at the very least stop torturing your poor audience), you need to read this book. Get it. Read it as soon as you can. And re-think the way you present. The only alternative? Death.


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