Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The ABC's of Public Speaking - P is for PowerPoint

P is for PowerPoint

PowerPoint should be a tool to enhance the quality of your presentation, not a distraction.

The use of multi-media presentation graphic software by speakers has been standard for nearly two decades. Microsoft's PowerPoint has been the norm, but there are others on the market including Apple's Keynote, and Google Presentation.

The replacement of clear plastic transparencies on an overhead projector or a flip-chart brought with it an amazing visual tool that added to the audience experience. However, it also brought forth really horrible practices by speakers that can sink the effectiveness of a presentation.

The use of PowerPoint makes if simple to create visually pleasing, compelling, and colorful slide decks and drop in charts, photographs and video clips. Pre-made templates or simple customizations are available, as well as more complex unique background development available. PowerPoint allows easy last-minute changes to any presentation.

The problems with the use of PowerPoint are many. Whole books and presentations have been written about how speakers misuse and abuse the use of presentation software, including Seth Godin's wildly popular free e-book "Really Bad PowerPoint" (available for free on the internet by searing "Really Bad PowerPoint"). The most important thing to remember is that the PowerPoint slide is not there to communicate your message. You are giving a speech, not providing the audience with a group reading experience.

Here are 7 reminders of what NOT to do when using PowerPoint:

1. Do not use too much text. Keep the number of bullet points to a minimum (maximum of five per slide). The word count per bullet as short as possible (about 6 or 7 words at the most). The use of a slide in not intended to transfer the knowledge to the audience, but instead to be a gentle reminder for the speaker as to next point you will elaborate upon. It should jog your memory for the next story you will tell, not tell make your point.

2. Do not use complex charts or graphs. Simple pie charts or bar graphs do a great job of making a point about a statistic or trend. Detailed charts that make the audience squint and use their mathematical skills to deduce a conclusion will take away from your presentation. If your chart cannot immediately be understood, do not put it in your presentation.

3. Do not use wild backgrounds, animations or sounds. Your slide presentation should not be a Vaudeville style entertainment program. Using too many flying graphics or other distracting transitions will cause your PowerPoint to take over the attention from your audience. The spoken words should be the centerpiece of the presentation, not bells ringing each time you advance to the next slide.

4. Never read from your slides. Turning your back on the audience for any reason is usually a bad idea. Doing it to read from your PowerPoint will make you appear unprepared. This is your presentation and you should know the material well enough that the bullet on the screen is a clear reminder of the important point you wish to share.

5. Do not pass out your PowerPoint slides as handouts in advance of your presentation. If you give the audience your PowerPoint in advance, they will skim ahead of your as your speak and look ahead for important thoughts that you will be sharing. By tipping them off to all of your information in advance, you will remove the power you have of weaving them along the path of your presentation.

6. Do not use cheesy clip art. While visuals are an important element of your presentation, they should add to the presentation, not just be there for the sake of having a graphic. While the right photograph on a slide can help to emotionally connect with the soul of a person, a generic stick figure with an automated graphic dance will just look silly.

7. Do not skip past slides. Prepare in advance for the length of your presentation. Audiences feel cheated if you click past parts of your presentation in an effort to get back on schedule. Pay attention to your time frame when creating your slide deck and avoid getting distracted while speaking. If you are off track and need to skip ahead, know in advance the number of a slide toward the end of your presentation that will lead you to your powerful conclusion. Then press "#" (pound) and the "number of your desired slide" to jump ahead. If done right you will arrive at the later slide without the audience knowing you left out information.

If used correctly, PowerPoint will keep you on track and impact the power in the delivery of your presentation. Do not think that you always need to use slides in your presentation, as a good speaker can have an impact on his audience by making emotional connections with or without visual aids. PowerPoint can add to the emotional transfer, but it is up to you to express the passion from inside yourself. A graphic cannot do this for you.

BONUS TIP: Purchase your own remote control to advance your slide. Do not rely on the company or organization who asked you to speak to have a "clicker", or that the one they provide will have fresh batteries. Having your own remote will make you familiar with where the button is that advances or goes in reverse. Many a speaker has been thrown off by having to fiddle with his computer "enter" button to advance slides or scream "NEXT SLIDE" to some volunteer.

Have A Great Day.


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