What I Learned About Powerpoint Presentations In The Military

As a military officer I’ve learned quite a bit about using PowerPoint and learned the hard ‎way how to brief complex information in a short amount of time. I’d like to share my ‎experiences with you so that your next presentation will be a surefire success. ‎

First, in my opinion, success begins with your slide show and its set up. This is one case ‎where less is more. PowerPoint is a powerful piece of software with a ton of good ‎features that have their place, however, fancy transitions, embedded sounds, and odd ‎colors can cloud a presentation and distract from you objective – getting your point ‎across. So, with that being said, I offer the following suggestions:

o Use a slide master – found under View – Master – Slide Master. If you set this ‎up right you can eliminate a lot of formatting later.

o Follow the KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) Principle. Eliminate the flowery ‎background and the fancy fonts – a simple black and white slide that outlines ‎your points in quick succession will go much further than a pretty slide lacking ‎content. Also these stripped down presentations will be smaller and load ‎quicker, reducing wait times when you’re briefing away from your personal ‎computer.

o Show the “Bottom Line Up Front” that is, from the beginning, let your audience ‎know what your point is and reinforce it along the way.

Second, how you give the presentation tells a lot about your comfort with the information ‎and your preparation. Remember you’re the one giving the presentation, and therefore ‎you’re in control of the information flowing and you can lead the audience where you ‎want them to go. I offer the following suggestions:

o Watch your body language – what are you doing with your hands and arms? ‎Are your arms crossed over your chest or do you frequently gesture with your ‎hands? Neither is 100% right or wrong but I submit that keeping your arms ‎crossed over your chest sends a signal that you don’t want to be there and ‎frequent hand/arm gestures can distract from your presentation.

o How do you give the information? Don’t be the presenter that reads the slide ‎verbatim to the audience. If you’ve done your homework you should have set ‎up your presentation so that as the audience reads your slides, your narration ‎amplifies what’s on the screen or provides clarification for complex slides. ‎Nothing frustrates an audience more than having a slide read to them.

o Make eye contact and keep the audience involved. You’ve come to tell them ‎something or sell them something, etc…so to that end, the more you involve ‎them and make it clear why you’re there; then your point is more likely to sink ‎in.

o Utilize concrete examples in your presentation and be able to articulate where ‎you got your information from. While some presentations can make use of ‎emotions, I submit that empirical data goes further than raw emotion 9 times out ‎of 10.

In summation, I think GEN Colon Powell said it best in his book, MY AMERICAN ‎JOURNEY, when briefing – tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then ‎tell them what you said. It’s a good construct to follow. Have an agenda slide, give the ‎presentation, and then recap for your audience. Utilize the opportunity to engage your ‎audience and never ever read slides to your audience. ‎

Not everyone has an instant affinity for public speaking and working with PowerPoint. ‎However, with some practice and keeping a few simple tips in mind, you can greatly ‎improve your public speaking ability by adding PowerPoint slides.‎

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