How to Avoid Killing Your Audience with PowerPoint
Create an effective and engaging presentation.
In this episode we address death by PowerPoint. A listener named Mario wrote to ask for tips on giving PowerPoint presentations. He writes:
I would like to have some quick and dirty tips for better presentations using PowerPoint like: How not to lose the focus on the audience? How to keep the focus on the subject? And how to use the slides to complement the presentation rather than the other way around? I want to give presentations without putting my audience to sleep.
This is a great question. Anyone (which is probably most of us) who has been slowly, and painfully put to death by a terrible PowerPoint presentation, will attest that it is a terrible way to go. After sitting through many of these excruciating presentations it is clear to me that presenters of all stripes need to learn how to effectively use PowerPoint slides to support their core message.
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The effective use of presentation tools like PowerPoint can be a powerful addition to your sales arsenal. I was an early adopter of PowerPoint when it first emerged as a technology. I can clearly remember how easy it was to wow my prospects when using it. In the early days the PowerPoint slides themselves became a real competitive edge. In those days you could put anything on a slide and the audience was mesmerized. Then everyone else jumped on the band wagon. The wow factor was gone and death by PowerPoint became a cliché.
Today supporting your message with PowerPoint slides is an expected part of any presentation. In the early days, we hauled around huge, expensive projectors. Today most prospects ask if we will need them to provide the projector because they expect us to give a presentation. In many cases there is no need for a projector at all because we are doing the presentation on Go To Meeting.
The important thing to understand is that there is an expectation that you will support your presentation with PowerPoint. The critical word here is support. The minimum requirement is that you have something visual that your prospects and customers can see. However, unlike the early days where having a great PowerPoint presentation gave you a competitive edge, in today’s environment your PowerPoint presentation must remain in the background. If your slides become the focal point you will lose your audience. Only your message and connection with your audience will give you a true competitive edge. Unfortunately, many presenters don’t understand this.
[[AdMiddle]Think about your presentation and your PowerPoint slides like a train and its tracks. The train is the most important part of the pair. The train has power, it moves people and things, it goes places. The tracks simply provide the support and help guide the train in the right direction. In any presentation you are the train and your PowerPoint slides are the tracks.
With this in mind here are the Sales Guy’s quick and dirty tips for keeping your presentations on track with PowerPoint:
Keep It Simple: When it comes to PowerPoint remember that less is more. If you have ever witnessed a PowerPoint slide with a complicated background, fifty bullet points, loads of text or lots of cute animations you know what I mean. Your slide should never be the focal point of your presentation. Many of our PowerPoint slides will have just a single impactful word – nothing else. Remember, the PowerPoint slide is just the track you are the train.
Don’t Read The Damn Slides: Nothing and I mean nothing, kills a presentation like the presenter turning away from the audience to read the slides. First, practice your presentation so that you don’t need the slides as a crutch. Next, see tip number one. Keep your slides simple so that you do not put so much info on a slide that it requires you to read it. If you have detailed information for your audience put it on a hand-out.
Make Slides Easy To Read: If your audience has to strain to read your slides you’ve got problems. The last thing you want to do as a presenter is make it hard for your audience to hear your message. If they are straining to read your slide – they will not be listening to you. Always use a minimum 28 point font. If you are concerned you won’t be able to get everything on your slide because this font is too big see rule number one.
Reduce the Number of Slides: I’ve seen many PowerPoint presentations that consist of 50 or more slides. These behemoth presentations exist because the presenter feels that every detail is important and she needs to tell her audience everything. Never forget that People Buy You – not the slides – and they Buy You because you choose to talk about the things that are most important to them. When developing your presentation focus on the top five most important issues for your audience and present solutions to those issues. They will be more attentive and participatory and you will be much closer to getting the deal done.
Two resources I recommend for improving your presentation skills are:
- The Public Speaker Podcast right here on QuickandDirtyTips.com
- A book called Better PowerPoint Fixes Based on How Your Audience Thinks by Stephen M. Kosslyn.
This is Jeb Blount, the Sales Guy. If you have a sales question please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.