The featured speaker was introduced and walked slowly to the front of the room. He was middle-aged, average height and appearance. He held an uncapped bottle of water in one hand and a clicker in the other. As one of thirty executives in the corporate conference room, I had a sinking feeling that this was going to be one of those boring PowerPoint presentations. But he surprised us by being beyond boring! He made just about every imaginable mistake humanly possible.
The first tip-off that things weren’t going well for him, or us for that matter, was when he stood directly in front of the projector. The title page illuminated his face and body like a Disney cartoon. He appeared nervous as he began his opening remarks and squinted in the light of the projector. While he told us of the importance of his topic, I glanced at my watch and realized that less then two minutes had expired. Ouch!
He finally moved to the side of the screen and did an amazing thing…he continued to talk while drinking water. His words came out like he was gargling mouthwash. I began to feverishly take notes—not on what he was saying but rather on what he was doing wrong.
Every slide was filled with bullet points, which he read verbatim. That’s right, every word. The only image was the corporate logo on the title page and a smiley face on the last page. He ended with, “Any questions?” There was an uncomfortable silence. Someone said time and the presentation mercifully ended.
What can we learn from this story about using PowerPoint?
First and foremost, always be prepared not only with what you’re going to present but also how you’re going to make your presentation. You should know your material so well that you can give it without using PowerPoint. When using slides, they should complement, not distract, from your presentation. PowerPoint as a tool, when used properly, enhances your central theme and make your points clear and memorable.
• Begin with a single headline that sets the theme of your presentation
• Slides should be clear and consistent throughout the presentation
• Provide an outline to make it easy for your listeners to follow your story
• Make numbers and statistics meaningful
• Use visuals that tie into your theme
• Close by reinforcing your title and what you want them to think, say, or do
• Prepare, rehearse, refine, and continue to rehearse up until the day of the event
Recently, I had the good fortune to have dinner with Hall of Fame Speaker, Patricia Fripp. She was kind enough the next day, following her presentation at our New England Chapter of the National Speakers Association, to share with me “The Five Biggest Mistakes Most Presenters Make,” Click Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2dryelsKZI