Seth Godin recently posted his Nine steps to Powerpoint magic.
Some of his "steps, not rules" are cheeky, like this one:
"4. Pay by the word. Here's the deal: You should have to put $5 into the coffee fund for every single word on the wordiest slide in your deck. 400 words costs $2000. If that were true, would you use fewer words? A lot fewer? I've said this before, but I need to try again: words belong in memos. Powerpoint is for ideas. If you have bullets, please, please, please only use one word in each bullet. Two if you have to. Three never."
Most are common sense, like this one:
"5. Get a remote. I always use one. Mine went missing a couple of weeks ago, so I had to present without it. I saw myself on video and hated the fact that I lost all that eye contact. It's money well spent."
Here's the one I disagree with:
"9. Short! Do you really need an hour for the presentation? Twenty minutes? Most of the time, the right answer is, "ten." Ten minutes of breathtaking big ideas with big pictures and big type and few words and scary thoughts and startling insights. And then, and then, spend the rest of your time just talking to me. Interacting. Answering questions. Leading a discussion."
I guess it depends what your topic is, but how exactly is "ten minutes" the right answer for every presenter and every presentation?
I understand that he's suggesting ten minutes for big ideas (your PowerPoint) and "the rest of your time" for talking, interaction and discussion, which I agree should make up the majority of a presentation.
And I agree that shorter is better than longer, but more important, that conciseness is better than bloatedness.
Some of my presentations are ten minutes long, and in that time span, I cover one idea, including a little audience interaction and some practical take-home tricks. Most of the time, I don't even bother with PowerPoint for a presentation that short.
But others are four hours long, where we delve deeply into public speaking and talk about the whys and hows of doing what we do, with discussion, activities and practice. And yes, visuals -- with "big pictures and big type and few words and scary thoughts and startling insights" all throughout the workshop, not just for ten minutes.
How much you use PowerPoint depends on what you're trying to achieve with your audience, and how you integrate visuals with the rest of your presentation.
I would say that there's no such thing as what's right "most of the time" regarding how long the PowerPoint portion of your presentation should be.
Are you a motivational speaker or are you helping overweight people learn how to eat properly to avoid diabetes?
Are you an advocate or are you explaining to your audience how to negotiate a retail lease with their landlord?
Are you a self-help guru or are you teaching your audience to organize their workspaces so they can be more productive?
Well most likely, you're a little of both!
There's a big difference between sharing abstract concepts and giving someone real tools that they can apply right away in their lives, but there's nothing wrong with using PowerPoint in either situation.
Does your PowerPoint enhance your message in a way that you can use it even during discussions, demonstrations and activities? Then, why not?
Do your research. Ask questions before the engagement. Find out what they really need and want. Make sure your visuals are relevant and not distractions.
Always make sure you're doing what's best for your audience, and your presentation will be just as long -- or short -- as it needs to be.
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