PowerPoint is great. There. We’ve said it. Despite numerous free and freemium versions of presentation software being released into the market, Microsoft’s offering still continues to dominate the market.
The main reason for this is largely familiarity but it is likely to do with the robustness of the program too. Because of its market share, it is largely supported by Google and bloggers where you can find a solution to any issue you’re having nice and quickly.
With its accessible interface and broad popularity, it means that it has been abused and is a victim of grievous slide harm. With everyone from Jill the receptionist to Taryn the designer being able to produce slides this has meant that people have been presenting crap slides for too many years – this has to stop.
WE'VE ALL BEEN THERE...
It’s 4pm on Thursday and the air con is broken in the boardroom. Phil in accounts has called a meeting (nice one Phil) to go over the numbers for the previous quarter and has prepared a PowerPoint so everyone can follow along. You know this last hour of the working day is going to drag and feel like 10, but like the other 8 audience members in the meeting you go along with the circus that is poor presentation and naff slides.
Once it is over, Phil has an audience wondering where the last hour of their life went, contemplating if it would be worth faking illness to get out of it next time.
While the information presented may have been especially pertinent to many in the meeting, poor presentation style and lacklustre supporting material means that the majority of the information has not gone in and what’s worse, it really has been a waste of 10 working hours for the business.
YOU’RE THE PRESENTATION
PowerPoint is a great support tool, but you shouldn’t hide behind it. It was initially designed to help support presentations, but less confident presenters have used it to hide behind for years.
This includes but is not limited to putting full paragraphs on the slides and reading it out word for word to using overly clichéd stock imagery to signify targets and teamwork. Because – like most software – it has been designed in a way to be flexible this has meant people can make it whatever they want. There is also a lack of education when it comes to PowerPoint and the comments section. That’s there for you to put notes in, so your slides can stay clear and concise.
People like people. More than that, people want people to succeed; especially your colleagues so knock that nervousness on the head, print off some prompt notes and step into the limelight.
AVOID MIXED MESSAGES
The general consensus here is to have no more than one message per slide. This avoids confusion and allows your audience to focus completely on what you’re saying. It also guarantees their attention is on the correct point and not wandering to other issues or furiously taking notes.
Bullet points are amazing and people love them! By our nature humans are lazy, we like to process information quickly and bullet points allow us to do this.
Finally, having clear graphics is essential. The other side is making sure they’re big enough to be legible. Having clear graphics will allow your audience to focus on what you’re saying and not trying to work out what’s on screen!
We’ve already mentioned that poor and clichéd stock photography can kill even the best presentation. Getting access to unique and interesting imagery can turn even the most beige topic into a fun and entertaining presentation. Yes, two hands shaking can signify a great partnership, but so can eggs and bacon or fish and chips (make sure you only use these after lunch though).
There are various free image resources online you can use:
DON’T USE POWERPOINT…
Or any presentation software for the matter. Ask yourself: “Do I really need to make a presentation for this?”. Often time it is enough to print off supporting graphs and give them to the audience. They can then refer to them when they need to and when not pay attention to you, the speaker.
Some of the best presenters in the world get by with just a flip chart and a pen.
By not having an on screen presentation you become the centre of attention and your audience has to pay attention to you. IT makes you free to use the whole space. To move, to use your hands and engage with your audience.
For more tips on how to engage an audience during a presentation click here.