We’ve all seen our share of bad Powerpoint presentations. They’re often filled with technical mishaps, poor timing, awkward speakers, and screens packed with far too much visual and informational clutter to process at once. However, this doesn’t mean that Powerpoint can’t be used as an effective tool in presenting information. We shouldn’t blame the technology for the user’s inadequacies.
So, here are some tips for being a savvy presenter and Powerpoint user:
Use a minimal amount of text. This means no chunky paragraphs, because nobody is going to want to read all of that nonsense. Stick to single sentences and phrases. The point of using Powerpoint is to provide an appealing visual aid to your presentation. It isn’t supposed to be your whole presentation slapped on a screen.
Avoid clip-art and cheesy animations/transitions. These are the bane of any presentation. Just because they are available, doesn’t mean that you should use them. They look cheap and tacky, and will not impress anybody who has used a computer before. If anything, they are distracting. Instead, use Google to find relevant images and if you feel the need to use animation, use the more subtle ones.
Rehearse your presentation in advance. Take some time to remember the order of the slides and get a sense of how long the presentation is going to be. Make sure that all of the equipment is working. Check for spelling errors and broken links. Don’t spend too much time memorizing every single thing or you might end up sounding too artificial. Just keep the facts straight and let them come out naturally.
Don’t read off the screen. We can already see what’s up there and read it for ourselves. We can also (usually) read faster than you speak, so we will already know everything ahead of time. This often leads to a boring presentation.
Fill in the details verbally. The only thing that should be up on screen is the core, vital information. Anything else – including explanations, examples and finer points – should be spoken to them. This is your primary role as the speaker. You are supposed to be the audience’s guide to deciphering all of the knowledge within your presentation.
Make direct eye contact with the audience. Don’t constantly look down at a computer screen or the floor. This will make you seem flaky and uncertain. Instead, you want to be projecting confidence and intelligence. Isolate individuals for eye-contact and act as if they are the only other person in the room. Then move on to other neighboring people and try to get a broad sweep of the crowd. Make sure to be smooth and gradual with your eye movement, otherwise you might seem erratic.
Try not to drone on and on. Droning is the fastest way to lose an audience’s attention. Put some flavor and emotion into your words. Use intonation and inflection to denote important points. Try to make the presentation feel personable. Feel free to throw in jokes, observations, and short anecdotes to make things lively.
Get the audience involved. Ask them questions to get them engaged with the topic. If they are unable to answer, give them the answers anyway. If there are any additional materials that you think would help with their understanding of the material, print them out in the form of a hand-out and pass them around. You can even create a little quiz at the end and reward them with prizes for paying attention.