As a speaker, Toastmaster and public speaking/trial skills coach, I get to see lots of presentations. What’s the one thing that makes me want to put my head in my hands?
This product should come with a warning label:
IF MISUSED WILL PUT AUDIENCES TO SLEEP
OR MAKE THEM WANT TO DO VIOLENCE.
Think back to when you were (or maybe still are) trapped in a classroom at the mercy of a teacher who drones on while pointing to the board and reading things verbatim that he/she has written there. Powerpoint is simply the digital age update of the chalk/black/white board.
Unfortunately, even though people are “professionals,” that doesn’t mean they understand the importance of putting together visuals to enhance their message.
Recently, I attended a presentation put on by a PR firm from Los Angeles. Their business is to promote writers. In addition to the speaker using the words “um” and “like” every few seconds when she spoke, the tan text color of the words on her Powerpoint slides melted into the brown/green background, making them impossible to read. Within fifteen minutes, people began to walk out. I thought they were being gracious. I wanted to leave within the first two minutes.
Here are some tips to follow if you’re using Powerpoint:
1. Make sure audiences can SEE your slides
Check the font colors, text size, images from the back of the largest room you’ll be doing your presentation in. How do they look? Will everyone be able to see them? Are they TOO CRAZY?
2. Don’t read verbatim
I learned to read before kindergarten. Most people attending presentations know how to read. Use IMAGES and SHORT PHRASES to complement what you’re saying. If the content of your speech is important, email it or provide in handouts to your audience after you’re done. If you provide handouts before, the audience will focus on reading them, and not listen.
3. Don’t marry your equipment.
I’m not sure what’s so seductive about screens and remotes, but presenters using Powerpoint typically stare from the hand that holds the control to the slides they’re showing. The audience seems to have disappeared from their minds. Presenters also stand too close to their machines, like kids in a first relationship who always want to hold hands. Focus on your message, not the machinery.
4. Look at your audience and move around.
Hi! I’m over here. Why are you looking at the Powerpoint presentation and not me?
Eye contact engages an audience in your message. Be dynamic and remember your presentation should complement your message, not be your message.
5. Make it fun.
I don’t care if your talk is super technical or content driven, please inject some humor somewhere. I’m sure you’re proud of all those charts and graphs, but…huh? What was I saying? I think I fell asleep.
Give your audience hope the talk will be fun so they don’t lean against the person next to them and catch a nap. Add cartoons, video or some other content that makes people smile.
Good luck to everyone in their next presentation. I’m looking forward to the day I won’t have to keep my Hara-kiri sword in my briefcase.