How do you use PowerPoint ?

How do you use PowerPoint? It is said that over half a million Power Point presentations are given every day. Add in all the other software alternatives and there are a lot of presentations happening in one form or another.

At this point, you may be expecting a lot of technical tips and keyboard short cuts to help you navigate your way through the wealth of design possibilities the software provides. Perhaps you'll be disappointed, but my question is really more fundamental than that. It is asking you what purpose you have for using PowerPoint, or any other software package. 

I have the privilege of working with managers from many parts of the world, helping to develop their public speaking confidence, communication and presentation skills. My aim is to make great presentation easy for them to achieve in their everyday professional and personal lives. The ability to communicate your important messages clearly and concisely has long been, and remains, a key skill that separates highly successful people from the crowd.

Because of its wide ownership, Power Point remains the preferred software to support many corporate and private presentations. In my experience there are three main ways it is used by most presenters, and only one of them is of real value during the presentation.

Presentation notes are not for sharing

The most frequent use of PowerPoint I come across is that of the auto cue. Typically, the presenter has prepared their presentation in Power Point and the prime purpose of each slide is to remind the presenter what to say next. A more than generous supply of bullet points is normally the warning sign that this is the case. Effectively, the presenter is choosing to project their presentation notes to the entire audience. 

Subtitles on TV can be a useful thing. If you are hard of hearing, or watching a film that is in a different language to your own they can really make a significant difference to your enjoyment and understanding of the programme. However, if you have ever turned on subtitles by accident, you will know how quickly you become irritated and frustrated by them if you don't need them. In effect the reverse happens as you find it extremely difficult to focus on, understand or enjoy what you are watching. 

The same applies to your presentation audience. For the vast majority, presenting your notes will be a rapid source of frustration. There is nothing wrong with a speaker using notes. Just keep them to yourselves. 

Business presentations hand out PowerPoint misery.

Another very common use I regularly come across is the hand out. The presentation slides have been designed to provide 'take away' material for the audience. 'Nothing wrong with having take away material', I hear you say. I agree, and if PowerPoint is how you want to prepare your handouts, that's fine. You don't need to project them to your audience first though. Handout intended slides tend to have a too much content, and hence too small font sizes and images to be seen by your audience. Keep the handout slides as a separate section at the back of the slide deck.

Presentation slides support your words

Try giving your presentation without saying anything. Just use noises and gestures. It will probably be extremely difficult to do. Your words are your presentation. Your slides are there to support what you are saying and to help your audience understand and remember your key messages. Simplicity is the key - as always less is more. Here are a few quick tips to help?:

·        focus on one key point per slide

·        Use few words and large font sizes

·        Use callouts, highlighting and shading to draw your audience's attention to your main point

·        Ensure what people are seeing matches what you are saying

How do you use PowerPoint ?

Richard Lock: International trainer, speaker,and coach helping businesses and individuals learn the secrets of effective communication.

To find out more about workshops, self study options, 'live online' virtual classroom sessions , personal coaching or other blended learning approaches please get in touch.

See also:

RHL Associates for management development