You do not have to use PowerPoint. It is a tool, which you can use if you choose to do so. Dave Grossman and Gordon Graham are the two most in demand speakers in law enforcement and neither of them use PowerPoint. The most powerful speaker in law enforcement is Bobby Smith and Bobby does an entire seminar without PowerPoint. Now, some of you are saying, “Wait a minute Willis, Bobby Smith is blind so it is no wonder he does not use Powerpoint.” There are blind people who use PowerPoint. The important takeaway is that if you have a compelling message, and do a great job of delivering it you do not need to use PowerPoint.
For many of us however, PowerPoint (or Keynote for you fellow Mac users) is part of how we deliver our message, and that is perfectly ok, as long as you use it properly. If you remember nothing else about PowerPoint remember this, “Just because you can, does not mean you should.”
Earlier this year I posted the following list of 7 guaranteed ways to annoy your audience with Powerpoint:
- Too much text on the slides.
- Text is too small to read.
- Reading from the slide to the audience.
- Poor choice of colors making slides hard to read.
- Too many slides for the allotted time resulting in the instructor blasting through the slides.
- Making the PowerPoint the focal point of the presentation.
- Slide is too busy – Stuff flying in, flying out, sound effects, etc.
Let us take that list of 7 and turn it into a To Do list for using PowerPoint:
- Few words and more high quality pictures on your slides.
- Minimum of 32 size font using Helvetica or some other easy to read font. The bigger the room, the bigger the font size.
- If you have a quote or other text on the slide shut up and let the audience read it themselves. They cannot listen to you and read at the same time.
- Keep color choices simple. When in doubt, check it out. Create a slide in the colors schemes you think will work then project onto a screen and stand in the back of the room. If you cannot read it, then go to something basic.
- Have the appropriate amount of slides for the allotted time. If you discover you have too many slides, and it happens to all of us, then hide slides on the break or use the tools and shortcuts that allow you to jump ahead without anyone knowing.
- Make You the focal point of the presentation. PowerPoint is simply an aide. If the screen is in the center of the room and is distracting then blank the screen while you are expanding on the teaching point.
- Use animations very sparingly.
A presentation I looked at recently had 123 slides. The number is not the issue. What concerned me was that only 3 slides had pictures and other 120 all had text. Most of those 120 were packed with way too much text that you know the speaker was going to read to the audience. We should be way past this by now.
I will add a couple of additional thoughts based on some presentations I have seen in the last few months. Please do not leave a slide on the screen for long periods of time if it is not relevant to what you are talking about. Simply hit the ‘B’ key and the screen with go black or hit the ‘W’ key and the screen will go white and you can carry on with your presentation without the slide being a distraction. If you have a number of bullet points on a slide and you have them animated so they appear one at a time, then use them that way. Do not hit the advance button on the remote repeatedly until all the bullet points are on the slide then start at the beginning and talk about each one. When you use picture, use high resolution ones that are relevant to the point and stay away from cheesy clip art.
Poor use of visual aides can turn an audience off to your message. If you are going to use PowerPoint or Keynote please take the time to read the book Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. It will help you to use these tools in a way that is engaging and enjoyable for the audience. It will be more work for you but, it is not about you, it is about the audience so if you are going to do the talk – do the work.
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