There’s a growing awareness that PowerPoint is a badly used tool for the most part. But even though my clients, and those who take my course on public speaking, might concede that PowerPoint is bad, they often still insist that they have to use it.
Some say it is part of a corporate culture or that conferences they attend will expect a slide deck for the binders. A few say their bosses demand PowerPoint, though I have never encountered a Senior VP or CEO who holds such a view. Some people try to tell me that their presentation is so complicated that it needs a bevy of bullets to help them get the message across. To them I cite several studies that show comprehension goes down when an audience is forced to read words and listen to them at the same time.
I suspect the real reason people resist ditching PowerPoint is because it’s harder to stand in front of an audience and perform – much safer and secure to hide behind a podium and have people stare at a screen. The most effective presenters, however, are often what Garr Reynolds calls “naked presenters”, meaning they can speak as effectively with or without the support of a slide deck.
So my challenge to those who are addicted to a large digital slide deck is to take one step at a time on your road to presentation recovery. Start with one of the following;
- Eliminate some of your slides, each time you practice. If you have 30 slides, get down to 20, if you have 20 get down to 10.
- Limit your bullet points to a maximum of three per slide.
- Replace one bullet point slide with a large visual.
- Take out all non-essential text and information from graphics and charts. Use them only to show trends and comparisons rather than detailed data.
- Go analogue. Start your next presentation by writing the points you wish to make on cards or post-it notes . Once you have an outline you can turn on PowerPoint and look for ways to illustrate your points rather than stuffing your ideas into a PowerPoint screen
- Create a separate handout document. If you plan on leaving a copy of your PowerPoint you will fill it with too much detail and ruin your presentation.
Any one of those things will make your presentation better. Take one step and get comfortable with it and then go back and take another.