The use of PowerPoint in business presentations (in-person and online), reports, and training workshops has become rampant. It's like an epidemic that shows no signs of running its course anytime soon. In many organizations, it's the standard way of conveying information, in large part because Microsoft has made it part of its Office suite of applications, ensuring easy access to the millions of users of Microsoft Office. PowerPoint is a great example of technology driving the message rather than the other way around. Apparently, if you can't get everything you want to say on 20 slides, it's not worth saying.
However, the more you put on a PowerPoint slide, the less you communicate. The slides should be used as an aid to punctuate a key point that you are trying to make. Too often, managers fill each slide with everything they want to say, like one would use a teleprompter, including all of the detailed charts and graphs related to the subject at hand, then they read the slides to the audience while facing the screen, and then wonder why nobody got the message.
An article by Eleni Kelakos in the July 3-9, 2008 issue of Ann Arbor Business Review reminded me of all the things that are wrong with how PowerPoint is used in business communication and what presenters should do differently. Here are Kelakos' ten suggestions for a great presentation:
- Use very few slides.
- Use very little text.
- Use big, legible fonts and striking colors.
- Use one striking visual instead of text.
- Practice the presentation aloud - with props and technology - until it becomes second nature.
- Bring back-up notes on paper in case the technology goes kerflooey.
- Use one big, bold bar graph or pie chart instead of a slide full of numbers.
- Use the "B" key on the computer to temporarily blank out the screen to assure complete attention when making a crucial point.
- Ask for guidance and direction from a professional coach.
- Always - and above all - connect deeply with the audience, one human being to another.