How To Avoid Death By PowerPoint

By Electric Pen

Does this seem familiar? You’re attending a one-hour presentation and the presenter has a computer full of PowerPoint slides, each filled with bulleted content in 10-point type. Even when squinting, you can’t read the words. Plus the presenter, who’s staring at the screen, is reading his presentation from the slides. You start looking for the exit.

PowerPoint is a valuable communication tool. Wrongly used however, it will kill a presentation. Electric Pen has created thousands of slides for hundreds of executives at companies like Microsoft, Juniper Networks, Nokia, Nordstrom, Starbucks and more. This experience has taught us that death by PowerPoint often occurs when a presenter ignores the fundamentals of public speaking. Conversely, presentations incorporating these fundamentals are almost always effective.

Here are ten key fundamentals. Heed them, and they’ll breathe life into your presentation.

  1. Effective presenters follow this tried and true advice: Inform the audience in your introduction what you’re going to tell them. In the body of your presentation, tell them. Then remind them in your close what you just told them.
  2. To keep the audience focused, change your pacing every seven minutes. Pause for a longer-than-normal time, speak more loudly or more softly, and tell a story.
  3. With PowerPoint, less is more. Use as few points and as few words as possible on your slides. Fill in the details with what you say.
  4. If you need notes to stay on track, make them as unobtrusive as possible. Don’t read from them, audiences react negatively to a presenter who reads all or most of the content from notes or slides.
  5. Avoid fillers as they detract from a presentation. Seven deadly words of presentations are; “um,” “ah,” “so,” “ah,” “now,” “okay” and “like.”
  6. Save the moves for the dance floor, use appropriate gestures. Many speakers move in ways that add no value and in fact detract from their content. Keep your hands at your side unless making a meaningful gesture.
  7. Maintain eye contact with the audience as you flash your slides and don’t stare at the screen. If the room is dark, often the case, look into the darkness as if you were looking at someone you could see. If you can see the audience, make eye contact with each section of it in a deliberate way.
  8. Use one graphic element per slide. This includes graphs, charts and photographs. When using photographs, make sure they move your presentation along and support your content. Make your photos large enough to show the details of the image.
  9. Move in purposeful ways across the entire stage. But avoid excessive and repetitive pacing back and forth. And don’t fidget. Some people, when they give a presentation, channel their nervousness into rocking back and forth on their feet.
  10. Practice your presentation in front of a video camera or ask an effective public speaker to watch you rehearse and provide feedback. Above all, practice, practice, practice.

A final piece of advice: Hire Electric Pen. We’ll help you incorporate the fundamentals into your presentation, create attention-grabbing slides and make sure you avoid death by PowerPoint. Instead, you’ll deliver a lively, effective and memorable presentation.