Angela DeFinis is an industry expert in professional public speaking. As an author, executive speech coach, and founder of DeFinis Communications, she has spent over twenty years helping business professionals communicate with greater poise, power, and passion. Using her signature Line by Line Coaching™ process, Angela and her talented staff have trained business leaders and other professionals to speak with increased skill and confidence in engaging any audience.
I recently read a Fast Company blog about a new political party in Switzerland that wants to make PowerPoint illegal. The Anti-PowerPoint Party (APPP) is a new movement formed by Matthias Poehm, a professional public speaker in Switzerland. His goal is to “influence the public to put a stop to the phenomenon of idle time in the economy, industry, research and educational institutions.” To do that, he’s focusing on eliminating PowerPoint entirely.
While this sounds like a bad skit from Saturday Night Live, apparently the APPP is gaining momentum. And while Poehm is making the assault on PowerPoint the focus of his platform, he states that he’s really targeting all presentation software.
So what does Poehm have against PowerPoint? His party has done studies on presentation effectiveness, and they’ve found that 85 percent of participants in meetings think software-based presentations are “killing motivation.” That’s why he wants to get enough signatures to put a referendum on the ballot in Switzerland to outlaw the tool.
I admit that I’ve seen my share of bad PowerPoint presentations. I’m sure you’ve seen them too—slides filled with wordy sentences in teeny font, no design elements, mixed templates, mutli-layered and complex graphs and charts . . . it’s enough to make anyone hate PowerPoint.
But if PowerPoint is banned, what’s a speaker to use? Poehm’s suggestion: Flipcharts! While I agree that flipcharts have their place in presentations, to have flipcharts as a presenter’s sole tool may be just as bad as using poorly constructed PowerPoint slides. So rather than outlaw PowerPoint, maybe we should first focus on educating people on how to use it effectively. After all, the tool itself isn’t bad; it’s just the poor application of the tool that gives it a bad name.
Knowing this, here are a few top PowerPoint tips.
1. Prepare your material before you design your slides: Content development should always come before slide design. Therefore, brainstorm, create, organize and structure your message, and then develop your slides. This simple change of behavior will put PowerPoint where it should be—as a visual aid.
2. Create three separate documents: PowerPoint can’t be all things to all people. That’s why your speaker notes, handouts and PowerPoint slide deck should be three separate entities. Yes, this takes extra time, more organization and a bit more work, but no one said that preparing to give a great presentation was easy!
3. Design a slide deck geared for knowledge transfer: Add pictures, charts, graphs, learning models, audio and video clips and other rich images to keep your audience stimulated and engaged. Visuals are vital to knowledge transfer.
4. Consider the power of staging: Your audience relishes design, symmetry, and powerful and pleasing images. And they also need you to be as polished as your PowerPoint. Therefore, a few simple staging techniques, like making sure that your body shadows don’t block the screen, facing front and using pointers effectively, will help you feel and be more professional and more engaging.
5. Memorize your transitions: Develop, refine and memorize your transitions so that you move from slide to slide with grace and ease. Avoid the distracting behavior of constantly looking over your shoulder to see what slide is coming next.
6. Don’t read your slides: The slide is there to enhance your message and to give the audience a visual stimulus that keeps them engaged so you can pour your knowledge into their heads. You are the message and the messenger. Take heed.
The sooner everyone masters these points, the better our chances of preventing the Anti-PowerPoint Party from establishing roots here. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but . . . long live PowerPoint!