I think PowerPoint gets a bad rap. I find people making disparaging remarks and writing critical articles about it all the time. The thing is: PowerPoint is not the problem. Blaming PowerPoint for poor presentations is like blaming the hammer for bad carpentry. Like anything in life, if you abuse something, it’s likely to have a detrimental impact. Take two aspirin and it will help your headache; take a hundred and bad things happen. The problem is with presenters, not PowerPoint – people who’ve come to regard PowerPoint as THE PRESENTATION as opposed to a tool that is simply designed to ASSIST the presenter. When used as recommended, in the proper dosage, it offers helpful visual cues, illustrative still images and simple charts, and video that can evoke powerful emotions. Like aspirin, two (words) are more effective than a hundred. If you like to use PowerPoint slides, use as directed. Several years ago, I offered a number of resources and suggestions which I’ve since updated and included below that offer some presentation guidance with or without PowerPoint.
The Instructional Video – Because we can learn as much or more from bad examples as good ones, please watch Don McMillan’s video presentation titled: Life After Death By PowerPoint. While you’ll soon realize you may have sat through similar such presentations, and maybe even delivered a few yourself, it offers you the opportunity to laugh, learn some key don’ts, and move forward.
BIG, BOLD & BRIEF - You’re under no obligation to bore your audience. Presumably, you’re trying to present information or make a case in a way that’s impactful. Most people don’t give enough thought to the fact that while you may have been working on your presentation for weeks, you’ll likely have about 10-15 minutes to present your idea AND make sure your audience actually receives it. You’re there to influence! Imagine that your audience is driving by your slides at 70 miles an hour. PowerPoint should support your message not to BE the message.
Appeal to the Head and the Heart - Craft your story. Make your case. Ask for what you want. Consider the outcome. Understand what you want your audience to do. There are many ways to convey your story and the factual nature of it. Use your mind to predict what you want your audience to do. Use your heart to guide you as to how you want them to feel.
Know Your Audience – Your most powerful tool is actually sitting across from you. Your audience didn’t come to look at slides, they came to be persuaded and often entertained. Understand their likes, dislikes, hot buttons, and emotional triggers. If you’re speaking to a group you’ve never met, learn what you can and try to meet people as they’re getting settled into the room; ask questions, gain insights, and integrate them into your presentation.
Engage Your Colleagues – Rehearse your presentation in front of your colleagues. Try to gather people who may understand the content very well, along with those who are completely unfamiliar with it. Ask for feedback, not about your performance, but about whether they got the message you intended. What did they think? How did they feel?
How About Some Variety? - Even if PowerPoint is your tool of choice, that doesn’t mean it has to be your only tool. Engage your audience by accompanying your PPT Presentation with handouts or presentation boards. Grab that Note Pad & Marker and offer a splash of “planned spontaneity.” Using video and audio and, just mixing mediums in general, can be very powerful tactics for keeping your presentation dynamic, particularly if it runs any longer than 15-20 minutes.
If You’re Just A Hopeless Case… If you just can’t help but abuse PowerPoint to your own demise, then try the PowerPoint Patch (or give it to a friend). Employing similar technology as the Nicotine Patch, The PPT Patch can be affixed anywhere on the body. Understand, of course, that its effectiveness is directly proportional to how publicly it’s displayed. For maximum impact, I recommend taping the patch to your forehead! Concealing the patch only maker for a longer recovery.
There are plenty of ways to improve your presentation (with or without PowerPoint). Use the Patch ONLY as a last resort!