Saturday, October 16, 2010

Making a PowerPoint Presentation Highly Effective

I recently gathered that it is standard practice in major oil companies and engineering firms located here in Houston, and presumably everywhere else, for presenters to simply read from their slides. In other words, instead of displaying short, highly abbreviated bullet points, presentation slides are very busy, packed with complete sentences. Not a good idea at all! Here is why:

(i) As soon as a slide appears on the screen, the audience is tempted to start reading way ahead of the speaker. Result: the presenter loses control of the audience.

(ii) In the process of reading full sentences from a slide, the presenter’s delivery becomes boring, devoid of any vocal variety and relative emphasis. Result: the presentation lacks “freshness” and “spontaneity” – necessary ingredients for highly effective public speaking, especially when it comes to projecting conviction and enthusiasm, and being persuasive.

(iii) Even if a presenter were to somehow employ vocal variety, hand and facial gestures, and other elements of “animation” while reading straight from the slides, such animation would be ineffective because, as mentioned in (i) above, many in the audience would be reading material in advance of its utterance by the speaker.

Bottom line: it is imperative that each bullet point contain, at the most, just a few key words, with the speaker doing the necessary elaboration orally. Also, rather than a slide being displayed in its fullness from the get-go, each successive bullet should get displayed (such as by “flying in from the bottom”) only after the previous one has been discussed. This will prevent the audience from taking flight and it will ensure that everyone’s mind is in lockstep with that of the presenter.

In my next post on this subject, I will give specific examples of abbreviated bullet points by discussing some of the slides I presented at the Project Management Institute Global Congress 2010—North America held earlier this week in National Harbor, Md.

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