PowerPoint What It Really Is:
By Chris Witt
Have you ever been bored by a PowerPoint presentation? It’s a
dumb question, isn’t it? Of course you have – it’s an endless
succession of bullet points, cheesy graphics and lame special
effects. And the presenter regurgitating everything that’s on a
slide you’ve already read. Who wouldn’t be bored?
Let’s call PowerPoint what it really is – corporate karaoke.
We endure it even though it bores audiences, trivializes content and
pushes speakers to the side of the stage where they interact with
their slides, not with the audience.
Businesspeople – and more and more people outside the
business world – have come to equate giving a presentation with
using PowerPoint. But PowerPoint, even when used well, should be
PowerPoint addresses what pop psychology calls “left brain”
thinking: people’s logical, linear and analytic way of reasoning.
It’s the Sergeant Joe Friday approach to reality: “Just the facts,
ma’am.” You’ll often need, especially in the workplace, to give
precisely that type of presentation; project updates, technical
briefings, financial reports, economic forecasts, and product
demonstrations are all about presenting information.
But there are many times, even in business presentations,
when you’ll want to appeal to people’s “right brain” thinking: their
intuition, emotions and ability to see the big picture. Sales
experts know people don’t buy anything – a product, a service or
even an idea – based simply on logic. So the more you want to sell
what you have or what you know, the more you will need not just to
lay out the facts, but also to appeal to people’s emotions and
imaginations. Those are the times when you should steer clear of
For example, PowerPoint won’t help you motivate or inspire
your listeners. Coaches during halftime, commanders sending troops
into battle, and preachers in the pulpit would never, hopefully, use
PowerPoint. And neither should you when you’re trying to rally your
troops. PowerPoint won’t help you influence your audience, which is
less about making a logical case for a proposition and more about
shaping the way people think and feel.
Whether or not PowerPoint is called for, you can increase the
impact of your speech or presentation by decreasing your reliance on
it and following these rules:
1) Be yourself.
Your character – your personality, experience, beliefs, values, even
your sense of humor – shapes the message your listeners hear. The
more likeable and credible you are as a person, the more positively
your audience will respond to you and to what you say. Practical
tip: Use the words and phrasing you typically use in
conversation and use the same gestures you normally do, only make
them slightly bigger.
rapport with your audience.
Rapport is a fancy word for connection, or more specifically, for a
connection based on trust. Once you build that kind of relationship
with your listeners, they will take your side and be more prone to
buy into your proposal. Practical tip: Before you begin,
establish your space. Arrange your notes, adjust the microphone and
take care of all the little practical matters. Establish eye contact
with one person. Take a breath. Look at another person. Take another
breath. Then, and only then, speak. Your quiet confidence will gain
your audience’s attention and add power to your message.
Show people how they’ll benefit. Every speech and
presentation should have an objective: What you want the audience to
know, feel or do as a result of listening to you. But here’s the
paradox: to get what you want, you have to give the audience what
they want. So figure out how your talk will benefit your audience.
Practical tip: Tell your audience – don’t make them guess –
how your idea, proposal, procedure, product, or service will help
them solve a problem or achieve a goal.
Be brief. When’s the last time you wished a speech or
presentation at work had gone on longer? People are busy, stressed
and distracted. They’re easily bored. Say what you need to say as
powerfully and as briefly as possibly and sit down. Practical
tip: Finish before your assigned time is up, even if only by a
few minutes. Your audience will love you for it.
Be clear. If you confuse your listeners, they’ll stop
listening to you. And they won’t do what you want them to. Being
clear may not win your audience’s cooperation, but confusing them is
guaranteed to gain their resistance. Practical tip: Limit the
scope of your presentation. Present only as much evidence and
explanation as your audience needs.
6) Tell a story.
Stories bypass your audience’s analytic – and critical – mindset,
speaking directly to their imaginations and emotions. Audiences like
stories and remember them. Practical tip: Tell about an event
in your life or an encounter with a person that changed how you
think or feel. Share that insight with your audience.
Use Q&A well. Many presenters shy away from taking the
audience’s questions, afraid they won’t know the answers. But the
Q&A session is – in most, not all, speeches – one of the most
important elements. It engages the audience’s active participation,
and it gives you a chance to gauge how well they’re grasping your
main points. Practical tip: For every eight to 10 minutes
you’ll be speaking, allow two to five minutes for Q&A.
Nobody ever walked out of a great speech, meeting or
presentation saying, “I loved the way he used PowerPoint.” So stop
assuming that you have to use PowerPoint just because everyone else
does. Use it only when it will help you accomplish your goal. When
you do use it, remember that it is an aid to, not the centerpiece of
your presentation. And whenever possible, don’t use it at all. Treat
it like karaoke – something that should be used rarely and only
under the right circumstances.
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