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.