We often hear that PowerPoint is a crutch for the speaker. That PowerPoint was created so that the presenter would know what to say next. And if you’ve sat through any kind of presentation in the last 10 years, you can believe that is true. You’ve seen that happen over and over.
How does it make you feel when the person in the front of the room just reads the slides to you? You dread another long PowerPoint. You ask yourself, “How many more slides ARE there in this?” It’s time to take out your phone and text your friends, check email, or play a game.
Relying too much on PowerPoint comes across that you don’t know the material well enough to just talk about your subject. It makes you look less professional and can even make you appear nervous.
As a speaker, I often have people ask for a copy of my PowerPoint because for some reason they aren’t going to be able to be there live. The reason they ask that is because they believe everything I am going to say is on my PowerPoint! Which for me, couldn’t be farther from the truth. There is pretty much no content on my slides. It’s just a supporting word or phrase, maybe some photos or graphics. You have to be there live to get the content.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind about using PowerPoint.
- If you don’t need it, don’t use it. Your audience will thank you for it.
- If you are going to have slides, put in way fewer than you think you need. You don’t need a slide for every point you are trying to make. For example, when I do an hour long presentation, I try to have no more than 6-7 slides, including the title slide. And I have also seen excellent presenters with 30 or 40 slides, but they are mostly photos and single words and just supporting material. The PowerPoint is not the presentation.
- Don’t put many words on any single slide. Maybe just one or two words. Maybe a short phrase. Or maybe you can just put a picture or simple graphic on a slide as a backdrop to what you are saying.
- Make things BIG on the slide. You know how many times there is a complicated chart or visual and invariably the presenter says this, “I know this is small and you can’t really see it…” That’s right. You can’t see it! Why put it on a slide? If they must see that detailed thing, put it on a handout and talk them through it.
- Don’t look at the screen and read the slide! These are most likely adults who can read.
- When you forward to a new PowerPoint slide, the audience’s attention leaves you and goes to the screen so that they can see or read the slide. 2 things about that: the attention is not on you (which could have a downside) and you need to give them a few seconds to absorb what they see on the slide. So stand silently and then bring them back to you.
- It is technology, so invariably there are times when your computer acts up or you can’t get connected to the projector or TV. Now what? If you are depending on your PowerPoint, you’re out of luck
So next time you have to give a presentation, whether to just one or two people or to a large audience, consider giving PowerPoint the boot. Or at least, make every slide audition its way into your slide deck!