It may not be an offence punishable by imprisonment (yet!), but causing death by PowerPoint is something many might still consider a crime so, to help you avoid some of the classic presentation pitfalls, we’d like share some key ideas and our top 5 tips for presenting with slides.
At some point you may well have sat through a presentation that has felt more like an information dump than an opportunity to take away something new, interesting or useful. And at the end of it, you’re left wondering – could this have been a PDF, instead?
It’s also noticeable when a presenter is using a slide presentation as a crutch or relying on it to deflect the audience’s attention from themselves.
Crutches are OK
The fact is that slides can be an excellent aide-mémoire – a helpful tool to remind us of our intended structure and content for a presentation – and a way to add a creative dimension to support the topic in discussion.
However, when faced with a lot of information on a slide, audience members can struggle to balance between reading the text and listening to what you are saying.
If you tailor your slides to include just enough clues that can remind you what you want to discuss and in what order, they can help both you and your audience (by underlining or enhancing your message).
The audience is interested in YOU
My earlier point about slides deflecting attention from the presenter is important because the audience is, in all likelihood, attending your presentation because of you. You and your delivery of the information are the draw for the audience. You are the element that is most interesting about the presentation.
Otherwise, the content of the presentation can just be conveyed in writing, can’t it?
It’s when a slide deck merely replicates information that can be simply sent out as a document for the audience to review that you begin to wonder whether or not the presenter actually knows what they are talking about. The implication could be that the presenter might be reading a whole bunch of text from a slide because they don’t know the content well enough.
Place yourself as the focal point of the presentation, rather than the slides.
Make the slides work for you
And so, here are some tips to help you ensure that the slides you use in your presentations work for you, enhance your message, and do not distract from what the audience’s focal point should be (yep, that’s right – you).
Top 5 tips for presenting with slides
Only share the slides when you need them.
Staying true to the idea that the presenter is the most important element of a presentation, by being selective about when to share slides, you remain the audience’s primary focus.
In the face-to-face setting you can blackout the slides by pressing ‘B’ on the keyboard and bring them back again when the time is right for you by pressing the same key again.
Selective sharing is particularly useful in the online arena. This keeps the audience attention levels up by changing the dynamic on their screens as often as possible. If they’re staring at slides for too long, you’re likely to lose them.
Using choice keywords on your slides helps to convey a clear message and keeps the audience’s attention.
Be brief and clear, use bullet points instead of long paragraphs and break the learning into bite-size chunks.
Direct attention where you want it.
If you have no alternative but to include significant amounts of information on a slide or, for example, where you are sharing graphs with a lot of data, simplify things for your audience by highlighting where they should look first. You can do this either via slide animation, by telling people, or by simply pointing out what part of the slide you want people to focus on.
Images: less is more.
Use a maximum of 2 images per slide and pick images that support or enhance your message.
For a personally tailored, in depth look at your presentation style come and join us on our public Presentation Skills course.