Typified by the ever present PowerPoint slide deck the modern business presentation can be an exhausting affair for both speaker and audience. Barraged by information overload an exhausted audience is in no position to listen, participate in or understand our presentation.
But without laboring either the problems of PowerPoint or its many advantages there are some essential techniques with which we can improve our own performance. Our control over the images and text projected on to the screen give us a mastery that is too often overlooked.
You should recognize the following scenario. Our speaker starts their talk, looks down at their notebook, looks across to the screen seeking inspiration and then, fleetingly, looks at the audience. In looking at the screen the speaker has made no reference to its content. And the speaker has missed two opportunities.
By not referencing the content on the projection screen our speaker missed an opportunity to demonstrate subject knowledge and expertise. And our speaker missed the opportunity to ensure that the audience was listening, participating and understanding. The scenario is not uncommon. It is repeated every day coast to coast. And it makes one question whether there is in fact a link between the presenter’s words and their slide deck. Well there is a link and it is of vital importance.
But the link is often lost with busy and complex slides that neither reinforce nor support the speaker’s words. And it is essential that they do either one or both functions. A slide deck that performs neither is wasted work. A better plan might include:
- Build less busy slides with less text and fewer bullet points.
- Make one main point for each slide.
- Use the picture and graphing components in PowerPoint to greater effect.
- Use the build function within the PowerPoint package.
- Learn the material and practice.
- Develop a familiarity with the subject.
But the plan is incomplete without some technique that can also be used. It’s a technique that should be familiar to most of us from our school days – though it was a case of chalk and blackboard in my days – and is easily learned.
The technique is used to reference the contents of the slide deck projected onto the screen. The justification for its use is simple. Surely, if the slide content merits display then it also merits both reference and explanation. And explanation is essential as we look for the slide content to support and reinforce our own words.
The technique involves:
- Point at the content – using a pointer.
- Turn to look at the audience.
- Talk – and explain.
This overlooked technique –point, turn & talk -gives us the opportunity to reinforce eye contact with the audience. As we establish eye contact with the audience we project our knowledge of the subject, we build participation and, importantly, we develop understanding. Understanding is greatly improved since eye contact allows us to gauge the clarity of our words and be alert to puzzled expressions in the audience. Coupled with clearer and less busy slide content this effective technique is invaluable for the typical business PowerPoint presentation.