We’ve all seen so many godawful PowerPoint presentations it’s tempting to conclude there must be something wrong with the technology. But, writes Mark Wiskup in Presentation S.O.S.: From perspiration to persuasion in 9 easy steps, that’s like concluding there’s something wrong with a stereo just because it will play Barry Manilow CDs.
Wiskup argues that PowerPoint can be a powerful tool for strengthening your connection with an audience. His rules for PowerPoint success include:
- Don’t make your audience work too hard: Every single slide should reinforce the words coming out of your mouth. If this seems like a blinding glimpse of the obvious, consider that even many experienced speakers are seduced by the idea of giving the audience two for one by delivering information on the slides beyond the words they’re saying. “It’s really zero for two,” writes Wiskup. Expecting your audience to process too much at once will only give them a headache, which they’ll soothe by tuning out.
- Punch up your headlines: If you’re doing a presentation about last month’s poor sales results, the title page “October sales figures” won’t set anyone’s heart racing. “October sales figures—off the mark” is a bit better, suggesting you might be about to say something interesting. Yet it still lacks energy. Far better is “October sales disappointment—why we missed the goal.” This adds emotion and promises analysis of a key issue.
- Keep those graphs and tables simple: Many speakers blow it with “Look what I did, Mommy!” charts filled with way too many details. You should be able to sum up each slide in a single, easy-to-understand sentence, then describe how each element in the slide backs up that premise. Here’s a description worth listening to of a slide about those lousy sales figures: “This slide breaks down our losses for October by product line, and it paints an ugly picture. The blue bar shows how we missed the mark in hardware, the yellow bar shows how we fell behind in service, and the green bar shows we were behind in installation as well.”
- Steer clear of clip art: Every day your audience sees impressive images on TV and the Internet created by top computer artists. Don’t try to match those with crummy clip art. Aside from its esthetic weaknesses, clip art doesn’t create an emotional connection; it looks tired, and takes the energy and meaning away from your words.
- Get real: Your audience can’t relate to generic photos of people with perfect smiles, waistlines and clothes, perfectly lit in their perfect meeting rooms. What they can relate to are real people. If you’re talking about increased productivity and you have a pleasant though imperfect photo of your colleagues Jennifer, Bob and Amanda poring over engineering drawings in your conference room, by all means put that in your presentation.
Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com
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