We’ve all been to meetings where we’ve dozed off to a speaker reeling off a speech learned by heart accompanied by a long (or much too long!) PowerPoint presentation. And we’ve all wondered why we bothered attending the meeting itself when we could have simply read the slides after the presentation instead. But why do these sort of presentations always seem boring and monotonous?
Do PowerPoints kill presentations?
What’s for sure is that it isn’t to do with the quality of the speakers. They know what they are talking about and give relevant information. So does the problem, therefore, come from using PowerPoint for giving the presentations? Often described as ‘one of the most dynamic presentation tools since the computer age,’ does it really do what we want it to?
There are countless articles castigating it for ‘killing presentations.’ After all, everyone knows too many speakers rely too heavily on their slides. Knowing that PowerPoint is there to add to their presentation, too often speakers simply write out their entire speech in it. They end up just reading it out, with slides there to remind them where they are, so they don’t forget what they’re supposed to say next.
Is it PowerPoint’s fault then that so many presentations are boring?
Obviously not! PowerPoint is a tool which speakers choose to use, so it’s up to them use it in the right way. If used properly, it allows you to highlight the ideas you are expressing visually. Your audience will remember your ideas much more when they can see and hear them. There are loads of articles* and videos explaining how to best use this tool. Some explain this humorously (video) and others more seriously (another video). Here are the 10 main things to keep in mind:
- don’t use too many slides,
- only use animations when it really helps make something more comprehensible,
- use the same sized font throughout the entire presentation,
- ensure you use colors that are easy to read
- don’t read from your notes
- don’t try and write everything on the slides
- illustrate your points with examples
- use a light background
- present one idea per slide
- use images instead of text where possible
This technical advice will allow you to create a clear and professional PowerPoint. A good PowerPoint doesn’t mean, however, a successful presentation – for that you will need to captivate your audience! To achieve this, tell a story! Try and imagine yourself as a film director’… put yourself in Tarantino’s shoes (I love Tarantino!) and tell your audience a story and make them part of the story. Your audience will be more likely to remember your ideas because they had to think about it themselves during your presentation.
Make your presentation more dynamic by getting your guests involved
Thanks to the development of the internet and social networks, your guests are used to expressing themselves and asking questions and talking to their contacts. It is therefore essential that you give them the same opportunities to interact during your presentation. Don’t forget that people who come to events often have useful things to share about the topics being discussed. It’s not only the presenters who have important things to say! Get your participants involved, it will enrich the debate and keep them alert during your presentation.
Making a presentation interactive is easier than you think. You can do more than the traditional Q&A at then end. When you are speaking at a small event, ask your participants to work in small groups on specific topics. As presenter, you can synthesize the responses and use the results to illustrate your message. By getting involved, every guest will take ownership of the subject and remember the messages and ideas you have presented.
If the event is bigger, there are other tools you can use to get your audience involved. You can, for example, organize surveys using voting tools or event apps. You can ask questions, and in a matter of seconds your participants can vote and you can show the results on the main screen. You can also refer back to the results to support your argument.
The best speakers listen to their public
Speakers have everything to gain from this! They spend lots of time creating PowerPoint presentations, but rarely have the opportunity to evaluate its success and impact. Apart from a few well wishers who give their feedback at the end of a presentation, or the few emails they get in the following days, they don’t really know what the audience thought. How, therefore, can you judge the success of your presentation and learn how to make it better. Speakers need to adapt by taking into account feedback from the audience. New tools now allow you to collect comments from the public, to access annotations taken during the presentation but also to find out when the presentation was particularly appreciated. You will know from now on, slide by slide, what you need to emphasize, develop, shorten and improve in your presentations!
Don’t be scared to disrupt the tranquility of presentations to allow for truly interactive moments and to give your participants the opportunity to communicate amongst themselves and with the speakers. Do you want a high quality presentation? Change the format of your presentation and welcome interactivity.