Avoid a PowerPoint Slumber Party:
Bring Slide Dazed Audience Back to Life
By Karen Friedman
Fugere and several co authors wrote a great book titled: Why
Business People Speak Like Idiots, a look at the frightening
world of corporate speak. I would like to reserve the title of what
could be a sequel called: Why Business People Create Slide Shows
That Put People to Sleep.
seen these people. You’ve probably been in many of their audiences.
They have 495 slides which they read to you one by one in a
monotone voice with no facial expression and expect you to follow
along in a font that even your ophthalmologist couldn’t translate.
starters, most of us can read by ourselves, thank you very much.
Secondly, assuming we can read, why then, doesn’t the presenter just
send us the slides instead of inviting us to a presentation? They
could save us a lot of time, though we certainly wouldn’t have those
extra minutes to catch up on our sleep.
being too sarcastic? Perhaps. But, I spend a good deal of my time
coaching people through presentations and critical meetings in which
they’ve spent a considerable amount of time designing and perfecting
slides, but have spent little if any time thinking through their
message. Creating a Power Point show or any slide template is not
communicating. According to the English dictionary, communicate
means to “converse”, to “impart” or to “connect”. The only thing
connective about most slide shows is the plug that you stick into
the socket to make the projector run. So, what is a presenter to
One Came to See a Slide Show: Before you create a single slide,
think about what you want to say. What do you want people to think,
do, know or feel when you’re done speaking? What’s the theme of your
talk? If the slides crashed, could you still tell the story? If your
answer is no, then your message is muddled and you don’t truly own
your material. Write your talk first and then create slides that
reinforce what you’re saying instead of using your slides as a
Don’t Read: Reading is for the eye. Listening is for the ear.
It’s important to create slides that speak in phrases, not sentences
so you talk instead of read. Eliminate words such as if, and, the,
in, on, of. Instead, use 3 to 5 words per line to reinforce what
you’re saying so people are listening to you and not reading the
slide. Look for opportunities to reveal these lines to prevent
people from reading ahead and to focus their attention where you
want it. Remember, less is more when trying to help people retain
Put Everything on the Slide: What works in print material does
not always translate to a slide. A presenter’s job is to help
listeners make sense of the information. If you put too much on the
slide, they’ll be reading item Z while you’re still talking about
item A. Instead of copying profit and loss statements or cutting and
pasting data from a study, create colorful charts, graphs and
pictures that can highlight data, evoke emotion and make the
information more relevant to the listener. That’s what they’ll
Headline: Look at each slide and ask: “What do I want them to
take from this slide? What’s the headline and what does it mean to
the people in the room?” Then think about how to walk them through
the information and focus attention where you want it. For example:
“Look at the purple box on the left compared to the yellow box on
the right. Notice how much bigger the purple box is…nearly double
the size. That means we’ve doubled our profits.” While every slide
doesn’t have to stand on its own, it must have a reason for being
there such as setting up a point or driving home a message.
Don’t Do It That Way Here: Just because others drone on doesn’t
mean you have to be boring too. Think of every presentation as a
huge opportunity to inform, persuade or sell your point of view. If
a slide set has been designed for you, you should still look for
ways to personalize the information and create moments that
audiences remember. If you are required to present every single
slide, that doesn’t mean you have to read every point. Provide an
overview and tell the audience that details will be available in
written form later.
Them Over the Head: Your first few words determine whether your
audience tunes in or out. So, why do people need a slide to tell the
audience what they are going to talk about? Don’t they know why
they’re here? When you open your mouth, hit them over the head with
a story or example that engages, grabs attention and evokes emotion.
Help them understand why they should care if you want them to
listen. What’s in it for them?
picture yourself at the back of the room straining to see the slide.
Create slides for those people. Use color, big fonts and contrast.
Remember, every time you speak, you’re on! Look for ways to stand
out and set the bar a bit higher so people look forward to hearing
what you have to say.
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