Think back to the last presentation you heard that used PowerPoint. Was there anything memorable about it? How was PowerPoint used, and did it add value to the presentation?
Too many times we see PowerPoint used as a crutch. Instead of delivering a strong presentation that’s augmented by PowerPoint, the presenter hobbles through his presentation, reading his PowerPoint slides to the audience. Bo-ring.
Adding PowerPoint to your presentation is great way to keep your audience engaged. By using photos, graphs, and other images, it offers a means for you to illustrate what you’re trying to say. But remember PowerPoint itself can’t (and should never) be the presentation. If PowerPoint is the dominant force in your presentations, it’s time for a major overhaul.
Using PowerPoint Effectively
They key to using PowerPoint effectively is remembering that it’s not the driving force being your presentation—you are. If all you’re doing is reading from your PowerPoint slides, you’re shifting your audience’s attention from you to the screen. That lost connection with your audience means they’ve stopped focusing on what you’re saying. Guess what? They’re probably not really paying attention to the PowerPoint slides, either.
Are you guilty of building your presentations around PowerPoint, instead of building PowerPoint into your presentation? Here are seven ways that people most frequently misuse this very popular software:
They don’t have an outline. If you haven’t planned out your presentation, how can you know where to best use PowerPoint? Your presentation is what matters most, not the PowerPoint slides. So focus first on the content of your presentation, and then decide how you can use PowerPoint to enhance your talk.
Their slides are too wordy. Less is more when it comes to the number of words on your PowerPoint slides. Use 30pt font and that will prevent you from putting too much text on each slide. People can’t help but read what’s in front of them. If you’re putting up a screen full of words, chances are your audience is reading instead of listening to you.
Their graphics are distracting. Animated graphics and transitions in a PowerPoint slide can turn people off. A moving target on your screen will take your audience’s attention away from you and place it onto something that really adds no value to what you’re saying. Nix the bouncing text and replace it with a solid statement that drives your message home.
They skimp on image quality. Clip art images are cheap, and it shows. If you’re going to invest time in putting together your slides, don’t skimp on your images. Find high-resolution images that will look great when they’re blown up. Distorted or blurry images make your presentation look less than professional. While you’re at it, choose high-contract color schemes and fonts that are easy to read.
They read their slides. Unless you’re presenting to a room of very small children, it’s safe to assume your audience can read. You don’t need to read your PowerPoint slides to your audience. In fact, aside from a few carefully placed statements reinforcing your message, avoid having full sentences on your PowerPoint slides. Bullet points are all you need—and they’re more effective.
They don’t practice with PowerPoint. Files get changed. Equipment malfunctions. Work out the bugs ahead of time by practicing your entire presentation, PowerPoint slides and all. Be prepared by knowing what order your slides are in and how to operate the equipment you’ll be using. Make sure your presentation is strong enough that if the equipment fails, the show can go on without PowerPoint.
They don’t engage with their audience. PowerPoint cannot replace your engagement with your audience. PowerPoint is great, but your presentation has to be strong with or without it. Use a blank slide and that will allow you to use that time with a story or an analogy to connect better with your audience. If PowerPoint is your message, then why are we having a meeting? I can read, just email it to me!
Good PowerPoint Presentations
People don’t remember a presentation for the PowerPoint slides; they remember a presentation because meaningful and provides valuable information they can use. PowerPoint can help, but it can never replace a solid, well thought-out presentation.
If you’re guilty of relying a little too heavily on PowerPoint, it’s time to re-evaluate your presentation format. The bottom line: If you can’t give a great presentation without PowerPoint, you can’t give a great presentation with it.