Stop the PowerPoint Nonsense!

Photo by tobiastoft

I give a lot of presentations, and I listen to even more. They all share one thing: PowerPoint.

I used to encourage people to dump PowerPoint altogether, but I don’t think that’s realistic anymore. The expectation that speakers will use PowerPoint is so great that you just have to use it. Fortunately, that’s not a terrible thing–if you use PowerPoint correctly.

Don’t forget who the star is: YOU!

Too often people lead with their PowerPoint presentations. Pictures, videos, animation, crazy fonts, and templates. It’s like a circus, and speakers see themselves less as the star and more of a ringmaster introducing the next act. Send in the clowns! But the big show is you. Having an interesting PowerPoint is nice, but it doesn’t compare to putting the time and work into creating outstanding content and the delivery to match it.

Use Powerpoint to do something you can’t do.

I hate when people use PowerPoint as a speaking outline for themselves. That doesn’t enhance your audience’s understanding of your speech topic. Such visual displays are for you, and unnecessary if you’ve prepared a good presentation. Instead, use your slides to better illustrate or explain your point. For example, I’m giving more presentations on QR Codes in advance of my new book coming out in June. I can talk about QR Codes until I’m blue in the face, but a good use of PowerPoint is to actually show people what QR Codes look like and how they work.

Give listeners a copy of your PowerPoint presentation, but wait until the end.

Some people argue that handing out your presentation in advance of your speech is a good idea, then listeners won’t feel so obligated to write everything down. Here’s the bad news: unless you’re Tony Robbins they’ll probably take more interest in your handout than they will you. Why give them another reason not to listen to you? They have plenty of reasons already. Instead, tell them at the beginning of your speech that they’ll get your PowerPoint afterward so they can rest their pens and give you their full attention.

Give into the distraction you can’t withhold until the end.

Expect attendees to be on their smartphones and tablets throughout your presentation. They’ll be texting, emailing, looking at cute baby pictures and watching videos of puppies frolicking. It’s an inescapable part of modern life. Don’t cringe, use it to your advantage. Here, PowerPoint is your friend. People are tweeting on their phones. Respond with hashtags and pithy quotes in your PowerPoint that they can tweet. I tell my listeners, “Tweet this.” And with my thickest Boston accent I add, “You’re friends will think you’re wicked smaht!” Include QR Codes on your slides that attendees can scan with their smartphones that link to relevant content.

The bottom-line is that PowerPoint is a good servant but a poor master. Make it work for you and your audience.