PowerPoint is very popular in certain circles. In fact in some organizations a presentation cant be given without it. But I invite you here to take a second look at the use of PowerPoint because:
·It can be confusing
·It can be a crutch for insecurity
·It can be a mask for poor content
·It can be an overload on your audience
·It can put your audience automatically to sleep
Edward Tuft, whos written several books on displaying information visually, is an advocate against PowerPoint. He believes those who rely on the PP cognitive style are “simply serving up PowerPointPhluff to mask their lousy content.
or insecurity. When I first started presenting I used it because its a crutch to rely on, and a mask to hide behind. Its like memorizing a speech, or reading it from notes. It gives complete control because theres no space for those disconcerting questions you cant answer when youre new.
Tufte writes about Lou Gerstner, on his first day as president of IBM. At a meeting, he switched off the projector and said to the presenter, Lets just talk about your business.
If you use PowerPoint as a crutch
would this not be alarming?
Suddenly youd be called upon to know your subject well enough to just chat about it. Im reminded of my grad school professor who said, If you cant explain this stuff to your next-door neighbor, you dont know it.
I do use PowerPoint, and effectively, and Ive seen effective use of PowerPoint, but lets first talk about why it isnt good to use.
·Its overused, and expected, so we tune out.
·Its a sensual sleepdown the whir of the machine, the progressing of the slides
the hum of the voice as it reads something
·I have never seen anyone give a fully read PowerPoint or slide presentation who wasnt tied to their umbilical cord. When it came time for discussion, they didnt know their subject matter.
What is it good for?
·Outstanding for graphs and financial data.
·Excellent for emotion photographs and art. A picture is worth a thousand words for emotional appeal.
·Good for a change of pace to wake your audience up suddenly.
·You can use it interactively put questions up there that need answering.
·Words in another language.
HOW IS IT BEST PROJECTED?
Weve ruled out rote use of PP just reading a laundry list. Here is how to use the PowerPoint if youre going to.
GRAPHS AND DATA
When you do use it for graphs or data, put up your data and give them time to look at it for a moment before you slowly talk through the figures. Some people know how to read a spreadsheet quickly. Others do not.
On the other hand, if you want to push something over on your Board, as Ive seen done, blitz through it, because a spreadsheet on a screen is not easy to grasp quickly. Beware the rapid flipper of slides where data is concerned.
I could not have raised funds for the homeless without the emotional appeal of photographs. Most of us would rather not see suffering. Words are easily tuned out, and numbers are only numbers.
For emotional appeal, make your point and then put your photograph up there. You can talk about homelessless or you can show a homeless child on the streets. Point taken?
If you use this, give it time. Allow the photograph up there much longer than your busy planning left-brain would like. The reason youre using it is because it has impact. Therefore LET IT HAVE IMPACT.
BEFORE AND AFTER
PP can be used effectively for befores and afters. If youre proposing a new greenspace for your complex, perhaps a habitat (which can save your corporation lots of money, BTW), consider photographs.
It works emotionally in the other direction as well. The Russians will never forget what the Germans did to St. Petersburg and there are plenty of before and after photos in the museums to remind the tourists. Did I mention EMOTIONAL IMPACT?
Photographs and metaphoric graphics (money falling from the skies, women leaping over obstacles, the scales of justice) are excellent for illustrating concepts. If you use photographs, use the best. Sites such as www.comstock.com offer excellent royalty-free photographs.
If you are talking about team work, put a picture up there of a crisp photo of a team that appears to be organized, getting along, and positive in attitude. You could call it suggestive or subliminal.
I give a presentation on innate Strengths, a la StrengthsFinder® profile from Buckingham and Clifton. They have names such as Focus, Activator, Analytic, Strategic, Relator, and Connectedness. Ive found photographs of people who illustrate these concepts that are pure Eye Candy. They have been well-received. I talk the concept, but I let them stare at the photograph.
What gets into the right brain stays there (see The EQ Foundation Course on my website.) www.gettyimages.com is a great source for images.
If you use graphics, use excellent ones. Its worth paying for them. If you only have 3rd generation graphics, blurred and cheap-looking, youre better off not using any at all. They make exactly the wrong impression, whatever impression youre trying to make.
GIVE SOME RELIEF
In any presentation its good to change style because it wakes your audience up. You can count of many different learning styles in your audience, and its good to give each group something. There are different categorizations of learning styles, but consider listening, reading, moving around and touching things, interacting, and creating something.
TWO REASONS WHY IT DOESNT WORK
When Baby Boomers were in school, they listened to a teacher/lecturer and either looked at him or her, or took notes. For this group, PowerPoint can be overstimulating.
Another large group in todays work place grew up with Sesame Street and treat instructors like a television set, much less PowerPoint. As Ask the Expert for ActiveProNews, Ive received more than one letter from college professors who say the students talk, eat, relax and socialize while they try to lecture, as if they were stretched out at home in front of the television set. For this group, PowerPoint is way understimulating. They dont give it any respect.
IN SUM, dont use PowerPoint just because everyone always does. Have a reason.
If you use it, use it judiciously, and well, and use first-class art. Visual images can be as effective as stories, in their impact, and are an emotionally intelligent way to present.
Try varying your presentation and make absolutely sure you could give your whole presentation without the PowerPoint. Otherwise youre faking it, and your audience will know it.
Lastly, heres a word from someone whos been in the trenches. Another good reason not to automatically rely on PowerPoint is that at least once in your lifetime you’ll show up and the equipment you need won’t be there or won’t work.