Hands up if you've ever been listening to a presentation which contained too much PowerPoint.
It goes on. And then it goes on even more.
10 minutes later and you find yourself paying more attention to what you're going to have for lunch, than on what's on the slide right in front of you.
Death by PowerPoint is, in many ways, an epidemic of the business world - especially at more formal and corporate organisations.
Many think the trick is cutting down the number of slides you have. This isn't neccessarily true. You can have 50 slides with short, snappy messages, visual elements and key information that keeps the listener engaged and moves quickly from slide to slide. Or you can have 5 slides with dense information laboured by the speaker at each and every opportunity. Chances are, the second will be more painful.
Slides can be a brilliant way to enhance your speech. But how do you ensure it helps - not hinders - your presentation?
1. Focus on quality not quantity. Each slide should have a purpose for being in the presentation. It should compliment what you are saying. It should add value. It's not a written version of everything you are saying (nor a script for you to read off). Think very carefully about each slide and whether it has a clear purpose for being there.
2. Use hierarchy in messaging. Your slide should always have a key headline that jumps out at the reader. If they are half listening/half watching, does your slide communicate the key message in 5-10 seconds? Less important information should appear lower down on the slide, or be removed altogether in place of a voiceover.
3. Don't be afraid of white space... Remember, if your slides are designed to accompany you while you present, your audience will already be making an effort to listen to you. They won't have time to dwell on each slide and absorb the information while also listening to you. Therefore, help your audience keep up by avoiding cramming too much information on each slide. Embrace a little white space.
4. ...or visuals. A picture speaks a thousand words, so the saying goes. Use imagery, infographics, graphs, icons and more (depending on the content) to bring your slides to life and enhance the words you use while speaking. Keep your audience engaged in the short time you have with them by ensuring your slides are as visual as possible.
These tips are a great starting place for the next time you want to have slides to compliment your presentation. PowerPoint can be your friend as much as it an your enemy. Get it right and you'll improve your presentation, but get it wrong and you will do more harm than good.
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