Audio/Visual Material in Presentations Friend or Foe?

Death by PowerPoint – certainly not an original term of mine, it has been used countless  times to describe the monotonous and ineffectual overuse of slides during a presentation.

But a majority of presenters still use word-filled slides when presenting to an audience of any size. Why? I ask.

The answers may include:

  • habit
  • following the corporate style
  • my superiors do it
  • I don’t know another way
  • it is my script – WHAT? Really?

So how do we prevent death by PowerPoint? Before I share the answer let’s examine the impact of word-filled slides on the potential success of your presentation.

  • the audience came to the venue to hear you, an expert, present on a subject in which they are interested. They DID NOT come to be read to sleep as they were when they were children.
  • if you need to read the slides as a script then you haven’t rehearsed your presentation enough. It also indicates that you don’t know as much about your subject as the audience expects.
  • if you are reading the slides then you have immediately disengaged from your audience. Is that what you want? I hope not.
  • your audience is able to listen or read, but not at the same time! Let them listen because they will engage with you, and that should be one of your primary aims.

The Answer

Approach the use of slides as a support act to your presentation, not as a crutch upon which you lean. Don’t begin preparing a presentation by opening PowerPoint.

Use slides when your words will not do the job properly.

Slides that are worthwhile adding to your presentation may include:

  • graphs, pie charts and bar charts
  • photographs
  • one word impact statements

This list is not exhaustive but you should see the purpose slides may serve.

In order to reach your audience, to move them to action, to have them think deeply about your subject, to alert them to a situation or to inform them, you must connect with them using a rich combination of the tools you already possess.

These tools include your knowledge of the subject, personality, emotion, conviction and understanding of their needs, all delivered with your voice. A story delivered in the human voice is the most compelling story – it creates a conversation with your audience.

Share a conversation with the audience for your presentation, don’t read them to sleep.

Ray Hartley

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