There are more than 300 million Powerpoint users world-wide. More than 30 million presentations are made each day.
Precisely at this moment, more than a million presentations are made world-wide – and more than half of these are painfully poor and mindnumbingly boring.
These tiresome presentations are called
“Death by Powerpoint“.
They waste valuable time, and in our professional environment are one of the most feared torture methods for committed people!
How can you make sure that your presentation does not drive your fellow men to madness? What makes a presentation exciting, inspiring and worth remembering?
Should you use PowerPoint?
Some purists claim that good presenters speak freely and by rule do not use PowerPoint. I believe this is an incorrect generalization.
During my professional career, I have seen many outstanding presentations with and without PowerPoint support. But I was also frequently driven to the edge of despair by poor presentations – PowerPoint or not.
PowerPoint is a tool – nothing more and nothing less. Whether you make a good presentation or not depends on you – not on PowerPoint. You are the presenter and must decide whether and how to use this tool.
The 3 important questions
Three questions are the key to your presentation. Answering these questions correctly will determine whether your presentation ends up being a success or a disaster!
By the way: None of the questions includes whether you want to work with or without PowerPoint.
1. Why are you making this presentation?
Be honest with yourself. What do you want to accomplish?
“I am making this presentation for others to see how important I am!”
“I am making this presentation for others to see how much I know!”
“I am making this presentation for other to realize how little they know!”
You are probably getting the clue: None of these answers will help you make a good presentation.
I have to do it!
You may also say:
“I am making the presentation because I was told to do so!”
Are you sure about that? Were you told to make a presentation of any kind? It is likely that this involves a certain topic, right?
You were surely told to report something of interest or importance about this topic. A small but essential distinction!
Do you have something important to say?
Only if you have something important to say will you speak with passion. If you can show this emotion for your topic, your listeners will reward you with attention.
Only make a speech or a presentation if you have something important to say. Your message must be of interest for your listeners.
Even if you only make a brief, humorous address: What is your central message? At a company function this could also involve opening up the buffet. Trust me, for many people this can be very important. But then please keep the speech to a minimum!
2. Does your presentation have a logical structure and is easy to understand?
Any good presentation has the following structure:
- an interesting introduction
- a compelling main section
- a worthy conclusion
It is completely irrelevant whether you speak for 5 min, 15 min or 1 hour: This structure always remains the same.
Start your presentation in an interesting way! Do not bore your listeners with insignificant forewords or by introducing yourself, or worse, your company. Get right into it!
Do not introduce yourself, but instead begin by making a compelling statement, with a question or with a brief anecdote that should underscore or lead into your topic.
The main section
Your main section should not contain more than 3 key messages. Most people cannot remember more anyway. If you have time, you can substantiate your key messages in detail, but do not deviate from your topic.
Make sure that your presentation has a line of reasoning. This should not simply consist of a list of bullet points. You should be telling a well thought out story.
You end your presentation by concisely summarizing your 3 key messages.
Avoid endings such as
“Thank you for your attention. Are there any questions?“
Allow your last sentence to impact on your key messages. Then quietly scan your audience for several seconds. Then briefly nod and only say
Is your presentation easy to understand?
Do not read from a manuscript. But also do not learn every sentence by heart. Formulate and speak freely. This forces you to express yourself in easy to understand language. The listeners will thank you for that.
Be concise and speak freely!
Use short sentences and speak in clear terms! Do not be upset when you make grammatical errors. A speech is not an exercise in English grammar.
Do not read, but speak to the listener!
Your listeners are not interested in reading. They also do not want you to read the slides to them. The purpose of your presentation is to inform, to excite and to elicit critical thinking. When using PowerPoint slides, these are only intended as support.
Condense the speech to the substantive points!
Many outstanding PowerPoint presentations consist entirely of images. They visualize the presented idea and therefore optimally underscore the spoken content.
Reduce your slides to the substantive content:
- Only one key message per slide!
- Whenever possible use images and no text!
- If text is needed, use only few keywords!
- If graphics are used make them illustrative and readable!
3. Do you dry-run your presentation?
Even professional speakers dry-run their presentation. One could actually say: The professionalism of a speaker is demonstrated by the fact that he dry-runs his presentation. After all, a presentation never works on the first pass. Practice makes perfect.
Practice out loud!
When practicing a presentation stand up and speak out loud. You must do this even when nobody else but you is in the room and you feel funny. Your thoughts might sound great in your mind. But you can only find out if this is true when speaking out loud.
Time the length of your presentation during the dry-run. It is OK if your presentation is a little shorter than planned. But avoid speaking longer than what was agreed.
Does everything work?
Before your presentation: Test the equipment in the presentation room. Do the microphone, remote and projector work? Is the computer booted up and the current PowerPoint presentation ready to go? Will you be supported by a technician or will you have to take care of everything yourself?
“Detailed preparation requires time,but is easily more desirable than a disaster in front of the audience!”
These articles might be of interest to you as well:
- Company presentation myths!
- The one deadly mistake you need to avoid when growing your business!
- What makes a great business vision statement!