Millions of us use Microsoft PowerPoint, but how many of us use it well?
Rather than making deals, influencing opinion and educating audiences, PowerPoint has evolved into something far more sinister – an instrument of tedium and torture.
Freelance business writer Babu Basu, begs, nay pleads with the reader to take note…
PowerPoint – Crimes against sanity.
You can forget the rack, you can dismiss flogging, and Chinese water torture just doesn’t cut it. Today’s corporate sadist will afflict you with something far more sophisticated; PowerPoint – Microsoft’s ubiquitous presentation programme.
This deceptively innocent piece of technology was designed to help persuade, inform and educate. However, it is more likely to bore, un-inspire and frustrate.
Your university or workplace will have you use PowerPoint with impunity.
Do so at your peril…
Millions of users worldwide, make PowerPoint one of the most popular forms of ‘persuasive technology’ – ie: technology that intentionally changes attitudes or behaviours through persuasion and social influence (Fogg).
Businesses, students, academics and those hoping to attract investment all use PowerPoint. I’ve even seen it used (superbly) at a wedding.
In the right hands, a PowerPoint presentation is bliss.
Short, sharp and persuasive. It gets your point across quickly and effectively. A well placed slide can add weight to your argument, summarise your case and sometimes, clinch a deal.
So what’s the problem then?
Alas, PowerPoint is rarely found ‘in the right hands’.
As a committed networker, (often wishing I wasn’t), I have the dubious pleasure of being presented to on a regular basis. Perhaps I’m affected by bad speeches more than most. As a writer with a background in business, I’m aware of just how good a great presentation can be – and how infrequently they’re found.
The bad news.
When a presentation is bad (and usually you’ll know), look round the room. You’ll see vacant, confused or resentful expressions. Time is precious and a lacklustre presentation is an awful way to waste it.
Many presenters don’t realize they need to MOTIVATE their audience.
But why? They’re here aren’t they?
Just because an audience is sitting infront of you, it doesn’t mean that they’re interested in what you have to say.
Many of us network or attend meetings for a multitude of reasons. We’re not just there for the speaker. Make your speech interesting, informative and accessible. Then, the audience will listen.
I’ve sat through presentations where even the presenter was bored by what he said. (Presenters, I beg of you, when that happens, stop! Your audience will thank you for it).
Be brief. And stick to the brief.
Unless you’re presenting something really technical, there isn’t any need for a battery of slides. For a 30 minute presentation have maybe 15 slides, if that. It isn’t necessary (or desireable) to bombard your audience with information. You’re trying to persuade, not baffle or brainwash.
Also, you may be an interesting person, but 9 times out of 10, the audience does not want to hear your ENTIRE life story. Unless ofcourse, you’re actually meant to be talking about your life story.
Presenters frequently make my blood boil by delivering a talk that veers violently away from it’s title. If I came to listen to speech about HR in Astrophysics, then by golly I want to hear it.
Your audience will not thank you for swerving away.
Avoid the showing of buttocks…
If you’re presenting, look up. See how your audience is reacting. Adapt your style to the audience’s mood. You’ll be more effective.
In one presentation I saw, a rotund gentleman kept bending down to access his computer. With his back to the audience, he succeeded in revealing his underwear and ample buttocks at the start of every slide. 60 slides later, the audience weren’t feeling so great. The presenter had no idea.
So what makes you so good?
I’m not a perfect presenter. Sometimes nerves make me stumble over my words. But, I understand the need to connect with the audience. Their time is precious and I won’t waste it.
Rather than being ‘the enemy’, the audience is usually on your side. People are generally supportive of others when presenting. The audience will forgive nerves, they won’t forgive arrogance.
If you do muck up, take heart. Studies in Social Psychology have shown that if a speaker makes a mistake and recovers with warmth and honesty they become more appealing to an audience than a speaker giving a flawless performance.
Sometimes it pays to make the odd mistake.
10 top tips to make your audience love you…
1. Don’t overfill each slide with information. People need time to absorb information.
2. Don’t use small or fussy fonts. Fonts such as Verdana, Arial or Tahoma are easier to read then Blackadder or Comic Sans or Times New Roman.
3. Avoid complex charts. Your audience is some way away. You can always give a hand out.
4. Be aware that some people can’t see red and green. (Colour blindness). If you’re able to, use other colours.
5. Talk around your slides, but don’t over do it. The human ear doesn’t take in as much information as the human eye.
6. If you don’t know the answer to something, say so. You can offer to look it up afterwards.
If pleading ignorance is not an option, tell the questioner that you’ll speak to them at the end of the session. Some people just want to trip you up. You don’t have to fall.
7. Be brave, be different. I once turned a potentially boring presentation about ‘My home town’, into a lively affair by pretending to be a game show host. The audience loved it. (But only use humour where you think it’s appropriate. Humour can help, it can also hinder).
8. Be passionate about what you’re speaking. If you can’t be, fake it. Be passionate about your delivery instead. The worst speakers use a flat monotonous voice or speak in the same tempo throughout the entire talk.
9. Understand that there are a number of learning styles. Some people learn visually – for them use charts, pictures and colours. Some people learn through listening – keep the language crisp and to the point. And a few of us learn kinesthetically – ie by doing stuff. Set an activity for those types. The best presentations have elements of all 3.
10. Finally, look out for how long people stick around after your presentation. If you see smiling faces and people staying round to talk to each other AND YOU, you’ve done a good job.
Good luck everyone.