Whether you’re presenting to a small group of stakeholders in a board room or addressing a large audience at a conference, you’ll need to know some things in order to be an effective presenter. We’ve already covered verbal communication skills in our last installment; today we’ll consider the content you will likely be creating to accompany your presentation.
• Overly long slide content bores the audience unlike conversation which can take turns in direction.
• PowerPoint is just a way for poor speakers to remember what to say instead of memorizing it.
• Some people relate much better to your narrative than to your visuals (different learning styles).
• Poor presentation content is rampant, and results in an excruciating experience for audiences.
In my opinion, it’s the last point—not using PowerPoint effectively—that’s at the heart of the “don’t use PowerPoint” movement (humorously illustrated here). That doesn’t make tools like PowerPoint bad, any more than bad font and layout choices make word processors bad.
Here are some things to avoid in your presentation content:
DO think about the highlights or take-aways you want your audience to remember.
DON’T use content publicly you haven’t screened for proper grammar and spelling.
DO pay attention to PowerPoint warnings and have someone else proofread your content.
If you don’t have strong sensibilities in this area, find a good-looking template and stick to it like glue.
DO use a template or content author with sensible layout, fonts, and color choices.
DON’T over-use effects that distract from your content rather than enhancing it.
DO exercise restraint and subtlety in your animations, transitions, and other effects.
Bad #5 Lack of Consistency
DO design visual content to assist the audience in comprehension.
DO communicate effectively to both the visual and auditory members of your audience.
True Path” to Effective PowerPoint Presentations: (multiple choice!)
Everyone loves humor in a presentation. How much should you do? It depends on how well you do comedy. If you're a rock star, throw humor throughout your presentation. If you're okay in small doses, dole out an ice-breaker. If you're terrible at humor, stay away from it completely--or rely on purchased content such as a cartoon or humorous photo.
Likewise, graphics matter but don't create your own graphics if the result is amateurish-looking. Instead get help from a person or tool or online service. Seriously, it's better to leave it out if it isn't pristinely done.
The content author who knows their strengths and limitations gives the more effective presentation.
Now that we know what not to do, what’s the right way to do an effective PowerPoint presentation? The good news is, there’s plenty of adivce online from people who have the answer; the bad news is, they don’t agree with each other! Depending on who you listen to, a perfect PowerPoint presentation uses one of these approaches (note the lack of agreement):
Remember that your content is not the presentation: you are the presentation.