We have all been guilty of causing “death by PowerPoint” (Angela Garber, “Death By Powerpoint.” Small Business Computing.com. April 2001.). Now is the time to stop hiding behind slides, stand up, and take responsibility for creating and delivering a clear compelling message directly to your audience.
Most presenters depend on slides to carry the message, rather than doing the work themselves. This creates a barrier between your message and your audience. In the best case, this barrier simply reduces your audience’s understanding; in the worst case, it puts them to sleep and turns them against your ideas.
Consider the following characteristics of “death by PowerPoint”
- Lack of Audience Attention — Your audience begins to wonder, “Why am I here?” as their eyes glaze over and their jaws go slack. Their attention wanders anywhere except your slides: to their Blackberry or iPhone, to their neighbor, to their watch, and then back to their Blackberry. To alleviate the premature passing of your audience, adhere to the old adage, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you told them.” Don’t save the main idea until the end. Think about the questions, “What’s in this for the audience?” and “Why should your audience care?” and then hook them upfront with the answers.
- Slides Designed for the Presenter — Your visuals should be designed to help your audience understand and retain your concepts and ideas, rather than created as a prop to help you remember what to say.
- Text-Heavy Slides — If your slides are filled with text, stop! Try some graphs, charts, or other graphics to help get your point across.
Once you have identified the characteristics of “death by PowerPoint,” they are easy enough to avoid. Before firing up PowerPoint and putting fingers to keyboard, think. Ask yourself:
- What is the purpose of the presentation?
- What’s in it for the audience?
- Why should the audience care?
With the answers to these questions firmly in had, you can then begin crafting your presentation and will surely avoid “death by PowerPoint.”