Are there any two words more likely to send an audience running for the exits than “PowerPoint presentation?”
That’s why, even though I use PowerPoint almost every time I speak, I don’t do PowerPoint presentations.
I teach. I preach. I talk. I illustrate. I tell stories.
And I use visuals on a screen to enhance that communication. The program I use to create those visuals happens to be PowerPoint.
Like any tool, it can be used well, or it can be used badly.
There are a few techniques that make PowerPoint work for me, and they all come down to a simple principle that every public speaker needs to acknowledge.
PowerPoint is designed to help the audience hear better, not to help the speaker communicate better.
Every mistake we make with PowerPoint happens because we violate that one principle.
PowerPoint is a tool, not a magic cure for boring speakers.
It won’t make you a good speaker if you don’t have the basics down.
Use it. Don’t let it use you.
Whenever I’ve seen a PowerPoint presentation turn an otherwise good communicator into a droning robot, that’s what’s happening. They’re relying more on the tool than they are on developing their communication skills. They’re more concerned with getting the slides right than how the audience is receiving what they’re saying.
So here are my 6 essential techniques to use PowerPoint to help people hear what’s being said.
1. Create A Presentation That Can Function Without PowerPoint
What happens if (when) your technology goes down? Can you deliver your message without PowerPoint? If not, you’re leaning on it too heavily.
Once your message can stand on its own, use PowerPoint to show an illustration that can’t be fully described in words, or to add a little “pop” and flavor. That’s what it’s designed to do.
2. Don’t Overload The Screen With Images Or Words
Use one image at a time. Maybe two if you need to contrast something.
And no more than three or four lines of large, readable text.
A crowded screen forces the audience to divert their attention away from what you’re saying to figure out what’s on the screen.
3. Stick With A Plain Background
There are so many fun background toys to use, from patterns to moving graphics. But when you’re speaking, the last thing you want is to have listeners be distracted by anything that isn’t central to your message. And, let’s face it, those visuals – and especially the motion backgrounds – aren’t central to the message.