Most of us have sat through countless turgid seminars, talks and sales pitches using slides generated by Microsoft PowerPoint. Having presented hundreds myself, I was drawn to an article in the New York Times quoting a US Army General slating the ubiquitous software as the “enemy within”!
“PowerPoint makes us stupid”, said Gen. James N. Mattis, Joint Forces Commander in Afghanistan. “It can create the illusion of understanding and control, when some problems are just not bulletizable.”
If you forgive the crazy made-up adjective at the end of that statement, there is a serious message here for your next presentation.
You see, communication should be designed to transfer emotion, to make your audience understand why you’re excited, passionate or otherwise concerned about your topic.
If all you want to do is create a list of facts and figures, save everyone time by sending them a report to read, and cancel the meeting.
On the other hand, if you’ve got a genuinely captivating pitch which needs a two-way forum, here are a few ideas for getting your (power) point across!
1 – Don’t put your cue cards on the screen; have them in your hand! Nobody wants to hear you recite what they’ve read 5 seconds earlier.
2 – Make your slides reinforce your message and provide a backdrop to your words.
3 – Use pictures and videos. As a visual medium, PowerPoint is ideal for displaying powerful images, which, as everyone knows, speak a thousand words each! Embedded video-bytes can really liven things up too.
4 – Minimise bullet points, and keep text to no more than 10 words per slide.
5 – Make loads of slides and keep up the pace. Internet-spoiled attention spans are way shorter now than when PP was first invented!
6 – Create a handout which doesn’t simply copy your presentation. If your slides could have the same impact when read later by anyone else, you didn’t need to be there at all! The takeaway should be text-rich and full of memorable information. Tell them you will be doing this, so your audience is not heads-down writing notes all day.
7 – Get feedback. Whether it’s via verbal questions on the day, or a request to complete a written document in the handout, you need to know what impact you’ve had on your audience.
Who knows, maybe you too will be able to avoid giving the type of presentations which the US military refer to as “Hypnotising chickens”!
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