As you may know from previous posts, I’m a devotee of Lucy Kellaway’s weekly column in the FT on working life. Her missive last week declared war on the use of Powerpoint by presenters. As she sees it, Powerpoint leads to boring, ineffective presentations which “lower the quality of discussion and lead to bad decisions”.
We wouldn’t go that far, but we do recognise there is a definite art to the use of Powerpoint to make sure that it’s a useful tool for supporting your delivery to an audience. So, below are a series of top tips from across the agency on how we believe you can get the best out of it.Thanks to Ed, Nick, Matt and Candace for their thoughts.
1. Know when (not) to use it – Powerpoint isn’t Word, and similarly Word isn’t Powerpoint. Sadly, they’re often mistaken as being interchangeable. They aren’t. Powerpoint slides and lots of text are a very unhappy couple and serve to do only two things: bore your audience, and distract them from your speech as they struggle to read all the information on the slide. This is something Lucy Kellaway’s colleague noted in a defence of Powerpoint this week.
2. Keep it clean and visual – Related to the above, the most effective Powerpoint slides often have little more than a heading, an image, and maybe a bullet or two. A powerful, relevant image, backed up by a well-given speech from you will be far more effective than 300 words in Arial size 12.
3. Don’t use it as a crutch or a shortcut – Powerpoint is an aide to the speaker. The speaker should never be an aide to Powerpoint. In other words, the presentation should be a visual guide for your audience, rather than a document they’re expected to read as you mutter thoughts alongside it. An animated person talking with passion about a subject is far more interesting to listen to than a mute computer screen with lots of words on it.
4. Try doing it differently – While it won’t work for all presentations, we’re becoming increasing fans of the ‘PechaKucha’ format. This involves giving a presentation of 20 slides, each one appearing for no more than 20 seconds. That’s a total of 6 1/2 minutes and ensures that you really focus on telling your audience the key points they want to hear. My colleague Nick used this technique very successfully at our recent D2 event.
5. Resist the temptation to be Da Vinci – Animations, slide entry and exits, elaborate builds, and exotic noises are all possible thanks to Powerpooint’s advanced functions. They’re also by and large a distraction from what you’re there to achieve – making sure your audience go away with the key messages from your speech drilled into them. More often than not, a simple presentation can be far more effective.