January 6, 2009

Is PowerPoint the new black?



Inspired by Laura Bergells' recent PowerPoint propaganda post about changing fashions in PowerPoint, Olivia Mitchell pulled together a group of bloggers to participate in a group writing project about what we'd like to see in PowerPoint slide design this year. Check back at Olivia's blog next week (I'll remind you) for links to all the posts. Here it is!

I could go on and on about how to make PowerPoint presentations more effective, but I'll stick to my top three suggestions for how I'd like to see speakers using PowerPoint in 2009 (you'll notice that I've strayed from the topic of "design" a bit).

1. More images, less text


Laura Bergells states in her post that the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction in getting away from bullet and text-laden slides, and that now slide shows have become too simplistic (and propagandistic), with images and a few large words.

This may be the case in the professional speaking/PowerPoint design world, but in the real world, I have yet to see a speaker use an image-based PowerPoint in a presentation. My experience at conferences and meetings is the same as it's been for years and years: heavily bulleted slides featuring boring corporate templates, too many words, and cheesy clipart.

As I've said many times before: YOU are the presentation. Your slides enhance the presentation. Your slides play a secondary role to you as the speaker. You don't need bullet points to repeat what you're already saying -- and you don't want to interfere with the audience's retention of your message.

Get away from using bullets as the sole method of communicating your points.

Use slides that are clean, simple, and support your points with creative and relevant images.

Show data on your slides only if the charts or graphs are simple, clean, and data points large enough to be seen in the back of the room. Otherwise, put data into separate handouts.

2. Don't rely on PowerPoint to be your only visual

Just like no one person can meet all of your relationship needs, no one tool can meet all of your presentation needs.

I like to use flip charts with or without PowerPoint; flip charts used to sketch out an idea, get input from the audience or provide a group activity keep a presentation lively. There's movement, there's interaction, there's problem solving, and the activity is spontaneous, created on the spot.

Other visuals might include props, toys, posters, videos or costumes, depending on the venue and the audience.

3. Step away from the laptop

As I mentioned in this post last year, a wireless presentation remote will free you up from standing stiffly beside the computer, pressing keys to advance your slides.

Standing behind the computer has a similar effect on your presentation as standing behind a lectern. Looking down at the keyboard every couple of minutes inhibits eye contact with the audience, and you're less likely to move around the stage if you have to come back for that key. So you stay put, static, lifeless.

Audiences are already used to staring passively at PowerPoint slides the same way they stare at their computer screen or television. Your physical presence, movement, voice, eye contact and energy are critical to keeping the audience's attention -- whether or not you use PowerPoint.

Don't forget to check back with Olivia's blog for a complete roundup of the bloggers sharing their opinions on PowerPoint fashion in 2009.

Black dress photo by Lukasz Dunikowski.

4 comments. Please add yours! :

Laura said...

The last time I saw bullet points was last February. A seasoned executive in the insurance industry showed me his standard corporate presentation.

It was a PowerPoint mess: bullet points, clipart, small text, the works.

The 70+ year old Midwestern insurance company president said that his slides were "an embarrassment". He hired me for a complete design overhaul. He refused to publicly display his "old-fashioned, ugly" PowerPoint slides - because he didn't feel confident presenting with them.

70 year old. Midwest. Insurance company.

What's more "real" than that?

(Grins!)

He loved the re-design. Said that a fresh PowerPoint design would give him more confidence than wearing a $5,000 suit.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Sounds like the midwestern insurance industry is pretty hip! Wish I saw some of that in my typical conference-going!

Matthew Cornell said...

1. More images, less text - Check.

2. Don't rely on PowerPoint to be your only visual - Check. I really like using the flip chart. I'm still a tiny bit concerned it has a boring corporate presentation-from-hell vibe for some folks.

3. Step away from the laptop. Check! I worry mine will die and I'll have to be anchored to the machine. Of course I have duplicates (including backup batteries!) If it happened I'd do the right thing ... co-opt a randomly-chosen participant to be my slide monkey. "Next slide." "Next, please." ...

Lisa Braithwaite said...

It's only the boring corporate presentation from hell if you make it that way. ;-)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...