Most people don’t like watching lengthy slide-shows, and they are not the most effective way of conveying information. Well-trained presenters resist the temptation to abuse audiences with PowerPoint simply because “that’s the way presentations are done”.
Ancient Greece was renowned for its greatorators, men whose speeches have survived over millennia, and they struggled to find power-outlets for their Proximas. Slide shows also rob you of your chance to build a relationship with your audience. You can’t sell or lead effectively if you don’t have trust. That relationship is paramount.
A speaker I once coached, who presents a talk on mountain climbing, struggled to master the difference between a speech and a voice-over. He showed breathtakingly beautiful slidesof the ascent up a mountain, but instead of ‘speaking’ to us, he merely provided a voice-over narration to his slides. Worse still, he didn’t take a minute or two to establish rapport with his audience before showing the first slide. Many corporate presenters do the same. Rapport is everything, and unless you have established a relationship with your audience, however cursory, you should not proceed with the ‘show.’
Better still, dispense with the slides entirely, and be the show yourself.
If you absolutely must use slides, make sure that they help to illustrate your points rather than taking over. Use these guidelines:
Keep the number to a minimum. If you have created more than 10 slides for a presentation, alarm bells should start toring. I recommend only three or four.
- As far as possible, use visuals rather than text.
- Where you must use text, use key words rather than sentences. Never use paragraphs as the audience will read them rather than listen to you.
- Keep special effects to a minimum. While flashing lights and dancing ants may seem glitzy, your aim is to be professional. Lines of text should simply appear, or fade in. They should not constitute a ‘show’.
- When using interesting visuals, call your slide up, allow two seconds for the audience to digest what they are seeing, and only then start speaking.
- Conclude what you are saying about a slide before you bring up the next one. Have the confidence to pause for a moment while you change slides.
- Always face your audience and talk to them. What a waste to direct all that warmth and charm towards a screen, particularly when it can’t give you the results you need out of this meeting. Talk to the people in the room, and direct your energy towards them.
Remember that the greatest and most effective speeches of all time were given without visual aids. The strongest presentations are all about you, and your relationship with the audience.