Several of the bloggers I read all the time, such as Jim Calloway and Tom Kane, have recently posted about how to give a great Powerpoint presentation. Since I just finished teaching a workshop on the topic, I thought I'd add my own take.
As usual, I approach the subject a little differently. Giving a Powerpoint presentation is a skill, like playing tennis or speaking Italian. The single greatest teacher, by a long shot, is experience and practice. Also, everyone has their own way of presenting, and my job as a teacher is to help them discover and nurture it. Therefore, I don't believe in feeding clients a million little thou-shalt-nots about how to present. Instead, I think it's a lot more helpful to teach them the underlying principles behind presenting in general, and then help them discover and refine their own technique.
Here, then, are the Sacred Seven Principles For Creating A Powerpoint Presentation That Absolutely Kicks Ass.
- Your audience is only going to remember a few things. Almost all presentations are packed with way, way too much detail. The human memory and attention span is more than a little flawed, and there is no way anyone is going to remember more than about six things from your presentation. Think very carefully about what those six things are going to be.
- You only have about twenty minutes of free attention. After that, if your audience isn't interested in what you're telling them, they will mentally check out, and you will not get them back. You have to give them a series of reasons to pay attention. Just being in the room and forced to watch isn't one of them.
- Interaction is everything. The idea is not to have your audience sit there mutely while you pour information into their waiting minds. A great presentation is a participatory exercise -- everyone takes part, and everyone wins.
- Nothing every works flawlessly. The technical guy is your new best friend. Murphy's Law was written for Powerpoint presentations. Be prepared for something to go very wrong, and have expert help at hand, along with a contingency plan.
- You know a lot more than your audience does. Many people wake up sobbing in fear at the idea of having to deliver a presentation, because they're afraid of being humiliated or challenged by their audience. This isn't likely, and if it happens, it won't work, because you almost always know a lot more than your audience. Farewell, stage fright.
- You must create and provide structure. The old saying "Tell them what you're going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you've told them" is absolutely right. Your audience needs to know how what you're saying fits together. Make it crystal-clear, and repeat it.
- Your audience is there to listen to you, not to look at your slides. The slides are simply an accent, a decoration, if you will. They want to hear you, and feel like they connected with you. Don't let them down.