You don’t have to be theatrical to make a point

Every time I download a talk from I say to myself: “I bet this one will not inspire me or just blow me away”. And almost every time, I am wrong. My expectations keep becoming higher and higher, and still, I am not disappointed. This talk by Juan Enriquez is one of the best I have seen in TED, and that, as you know very well, is a very hard title to claim.

I will let you enjoy the talk as it is, because I am afraid that discussing it, might belittle it. I do, however, want to take the less obvious path and try to learn something about presentation skills from this talk.

A few weeks ago I wrote here that there is no “one right way” to give a presentation. Enriquez, in this talk, violates many of the most important rules of presentations. He is monotonic, he does not use his voice to confer his message and generally he transmits a feeling of boredom. His closing is lacking, both in rigour and in connection to the beginning of the speech. And still, I think his point is well taken. Which means, that you don’t have to magnificently control all the skills of “public speaking” in order to give a great presentation.

So what makes his talk so great? You would not believe it. The PowerPoint presentation. I know. We are used to the concept of “Death by PowerPoint” and when we imagine PowerPoint presentations we think of boring bullet lists and presenters who insist on reading to us what is written on the slide.

And then you look at talks like this and you understand the intensity and vigour that the right use of PowerPoint can instil into our presentations.

A few pointers:

  • 1. Notice that Enriquez uses words scarcely in his slides. Slides are not there to be an outline of the lecture. They are supposed to amplify the speaker’s message. Especially note the fact that many times, he shows words in the slide, but does not read them at all. The audience can read. Don’t insult them by reading to them.
  • 2. Use of pictures. Enriquez uses pictures that carry a message. Pictures that surprise. Picture that magnify the message. Many times they are funny (which is always a good thing), but they are always relevant.
  • 3. Number of slides. I know that there are some experts who talk about the number of slides you need to put in a presentation or limit it in time. I personally don’t believe there is a right or wrong number or time (although I like the ted 20 minutes limit). In Enriquez talk we see a lot of slides that accompany the entire presentation and make each point more understandable. I think this keeps the crowd alert and uses both side of their brains. On the other hand, because there a lot of slides, we get one message per slide, thus, it is not to overwhelming or includes too much information to be absorbed.

A lot to learn!


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