Why PowerPoint slides are often like a badly mixed cocktail.
Do you sometimes wonder in astonishment why things are done a particular way? Why it seems so incredible logical to do it another way, so it would be far more effective? You wonder why people keep doing it, although, according to you, it is so obvious.
I bet you also sometimes feel like me, like the little kid in the fairy-tale of the new clothes of the emperor. It takes courage or sometimes determination to break out of the old mould and start to do it differently.
I hereby, ask you to start being the little kid and do things differently with PowerPoint from now on. A way which takes more effort during your preparation phase, but will be so much more effective and professional during your presentation.
So, what this most persistent non-effective habit I frequently encounter? And what are three simple ways to tackle this?
It is the tendency to make a report or a crib sheet out of your PowerPoint slides.
“Reports should be distributed; presentations should be presented”. (Nancy Duarte, Resonate.)
It seems a smart thing to do, to kill two birds with one stone. Why would you make a separate hand-out if you already can make do with a print-out of your slides? Besides, it will be a wonderful crib sheet for you during the presentation.
The most important reason is that you mix two different mediums and this does not work!! You mix the medium of “a written report”, with the medium of “giving a presentation” and they do not work well together. It is like a badly mixed cocktail, that does not go well down the throat of your audience.
“Many people who create presentations are stuck in the mindset that if they use a presentation application, like PowerPoint, to create a report, the report is a presentation. It is not! (Nancy Duarte, Resonate.)
The medium report requires something else than the medium presentation. A report is a product. A presentation is a production. This means amongst others that it does not work for your audience to have to switch to large bits of reading and then listening and then reading over and over again. Or even worse trying to process a slide and the oral presentation at the same time.
It requires for the brain to switch to two different ways of processing of information or even trying to combine them (which will never work: attention cannot be a two spots at the same time). This takes time and quite some effort. You’re asking a lot from your audience this way. (this is of course not the case if you have simple easy digestible slides, that support what you say).
Trying to make a report or crib sheet out of your PowerPoint slides usually makes for loads of slides, tjockful of text. It also makes for loads of slides with bullit-points, that the presenter eventually merely repeats.
“While documents and reports are very valuable, they do not need to be projected for the purpose of hosting a “read-along”. (Nancy Duarte, Resonate).
Having loads of bullit-points and moving yourself into the role of merely repeating what is on the slide, is one of the main reasons audiences get easily bored.
Your PowerPoint slides should support your presentation, not make it hard to swallow!
In short, these “read-alongs” and making the audience work very hard to process it all, make presentations incredible boring and an ordeal that you should not want your audience to go through and experience.
So, what is the medicine for this problem? What are to start with three things you can do to make your audience happy? Instead of seeing them run away as soon as your presentation is finished, heading for the coffee bar in urgent need for a double espresso.
- Do not mix the mediums! Make a separate hand-out, with more elaborate text. And make slides that will support your presentation. Keep it pure and simple!
- Do not bother your audience with your crib-sheet! Practise your presentation out loud and make personal notes for yourself in PowerPoint. These notes will not be viewable for the audience, but they will only be there for you!
- Go in the opposite direction. Try to use PowerPoint to a minimum. Use more images and try to limit your text to a minimum per slide and limit bullit-points.
Be the one that stands out and break with the boring “read-alongs”. Be different, be original, be more effective.