WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE: Sitting, expressionless, head drooping and eyes half open. The speaker drones on and like magic a word-for-word account appears on the screen. That is, of course, if we could see it. There are over 200 words on the screen.
Welcome to the phenomenon that is PowerPoint. Launched in May 1990 by Microsoft, this ubiquitous communication tool has become indispensable for external sales pitches and internal meetings alike.
But more often than not, the whole experience for the audience is a mind-numbing, waste of time.
As a result, artistically challenged, downright lazy, and empathy lacking individuals have given PowerPoint a bad name. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The key is to remember that PowerPoint isn’t the presentation. It’s only an aid. The audience has come to hear you, not to stare at images dragged and dropped onto a template.
Professor Albert Mehrabi hypothesised that when discussing opinions and information, what you say has a very small impact compared to the tone you use and how you hold your body. He divided these influences into the following percentages:
• Verbal: 7%
• Tone: 38%
• Non-verbal: 55%
Taking this study into account, the typical PowerPoint presentation will only support 7% of the message. The remaining 93% is you, the presenter. With this in mind, ClarkMorgan has created a 10-point plan to ensure that your next PowerPoint presentation doesn’t kill your audience.
1. Plan away from your computer
“Step away from the computer!” Brainstorm on paper, or on the whiteboard, first. Invite some colleagues to help brainstorm the structure and content. Even better, invite some of your stakeholders, that is, those that have invited you to present, or who will be in your audience. Ask them for their expectation of your presentation. This way you can ensure that the message is targeted.
2. Keep it short and simple (The KISS rule)
The first rule a ClarkMorgan trainer teaches is to keep all information concise. This is internationally known as the KISS rule. Each PowerPoint slide should only be paraphrasing what you are saying, and not be a verbatim account. Aim for 30 words or less and remember that bullet points trump perfect grammar.
Aim for 30 words or less and remember that bullet points trump perfect grammar.
3. Point your feet at the audience
Sing along: “The foot bone is connected to the leg bone. The leg bone is connected to the hip bone. The hip bone is connected to the chest bone. And the chest bone is connected to your neck bone.” By ensuring that your feet are always pointing to the centre of your audience, your neck will force your head to look at the audience too. Now you are face-to-face with your audience, which builds intimacy and reduces the chance that you will read your slides.
4. Increase your body language
The more animated you are during your presentation, the more engaging your presentations. A laser pointer is not only tiny, it requires minimum movement on your behalf. A sweep and point of the hand is much more attention grabbing that a tiny red dot. Remember, 55% of the impact of a message comes from nonverbal communication, which means using those two things on each side of you – your hands!
5. Use… pauses
Raising you voice can be used to create emphasis. So can making a short… pause. The next time you want to emphasise a word, add a two second pause. For example, “Today, I’m going to teach you how to make…money.” This change in your voice will trigger your audience to prick up their ears, which will increase retention.
6. Time your remarks.
Another mistake speakers make is talking precisely with the appearance of a new PowerPoint slide. With the arrival of new words your audience are drawn away from you, and towards the screen. That means they are not listening to you. Verbally introduce slide premise and then press ‘next’ to make it appear.
7. Give it a rest.
Again, PowerPoint is most effective as a visual accompaniment to the spoken word.
Experienced PowerPoint users aren’t shy about letting the screen go blank on occasion.
8. Be Original
If your company has a standard PowerPoint ‘master’, try modifying it, or even create your own. Your colleagues eyes may glaze over at yet another slideshow based around your company’s corporate logo, so add a bit of personality. Note though, that while this is ideal for internal presentations, it might not be permitted for external, customer facing presentations.
9. Distribute handouts at the end – not during the presentation
The easiest way to lose your audience’s attention is to distribute your handouts before you start speaking. Unless it is imperative that people follow a handout while you’re presenting, wait until you are done to before you distribute. The alternative to this, is providing a handout that lacks key words – requiring your audience to fill in the blanks.
10. Conclude by summarising and add a ‘cheat sheet’
It is commonly believed that we forget 75% of new information after 24 hours. With this in mind, it is imperative that your audience is given a concise summary of your presentation and a ‘cheat sheet’ of the most important factors. At ClarkMorgan, we distribute an eTipCard to our trainees after the training. This is sent out via email and on WeChat.
Of course there are many more tips that could be provided, but these top 10 will help ensure that your next presentation is a career builder, not destroyer. And if you are looking for more advice, join our presentation skills training.