What’s your first reaction when you enter the conference room and you see the VP of Very Important Stuff firing up the projector? How about when, once they’ve got the projector to cooperate, you see the title frame of a PowerPoint slide show? Oh, and how about when they hand you a 200-page stack of “everything we’re going to ‘discuss”?
Why do you react that way? Because that’s how every PowerPoint meeting goes! Remember the 400-slide show, capturing every mind-numbing detail? Remember the presenter who recited exactly what was on the screen, word for word, in a weak monotone? Or (my personal favorite), the “cool” transitions and animation that scream, “This is my first time using PowerPoint!”
Why do people continue to misuse PowerPoint? PowerPoint is the most overused, yet least understood, of business applications. It lets people take hours to say what they could easily say in five minutes.
Well, you’re not going to let this go on! It’s the message, not the medium! You’re going to communicate an idea effectively and concisely in the shortest period of time possible. Your slide show is going to stand out for the right reasons!
You’re going to put together a refreshing, informative, and entertaining slide show! And this is how you’re going to do it:
You’ve been tasked with an important job: get the company’s message across. If you’re pressed for time, don’t dump on some poor so-and-so — that’s a snowball that won’t stop until it hits bottom. Tell whoever asked for the presentation “by 3:00 tomorrow” that you’re doing this, that, and the other thing and need more time. Quality takes time and planning, so have them give you a reasonable amount of time to put a draft together, refine it, AND rehearse it.
Introduce the topic on a single slide. Say it — one slide per major point, and keep it under two dozen slides. Then, tell them what you just said — conclude with a one-slide synopsis.
Don’t regurgitate the entire benefits plan or the budget plan for FY 20xx. Point out — and summarize — the main ideas of the plan. Simple declarative sentences or phrases will do. Supplement the statements on the slide with the brief but insightful explanations you have in your notes (see point 1) but do not parrot every word on the slide show!
Text-only presentations are the surest way to lose your audience (next is to pump out slide after slide after slide of tabular data). Use charts, graphs, and pictures to get your point across, but don’t overdo it. Charts and pictures lose their appeal eventually.
Rather than do the same dry, tired show that everyone else has done, dare to be different! “Tried and true” isn’t always a good thing.
As long as it’s appropriate. I once ended a slide show with a picture of Laurel and Hardy in a sinking rowboat. Stan Laurel was madly rowing, while Hardy sat chin on fist, wearing a look of resignation, as usual. The point of the presentation – take care of problems while they’re little (they got it).
Keep it brief — the agenda should take up less than one printed page.
One, you want them to pay attention to the PowerPoint on the screen, not flip noisily through it. Two, as soon as you hand each of them a 100-page stack of paper, you’ve lost them. Hand out the details at the end of the session, or tell them where and how to go to “Learn More”.
Take no more than a couple of questions.
Ask a few attendees whose opinions you value, “What did you think of the presentation?” Use every opportunity to improve your presentation – jot some notes about the feedback, then go back and punch up the presentation. Little things often make the biggest difference.
Follow these rules to make better PowerPoint presentations and you’ll not only get your point across — you’ll make it stick.