Drunks, lamp-posts and PowerPoint

Why do we still experience ‘death by PowerPoint’?   If anything, it's got worse. People manage to express themselves perfectly well in conversation without needing an accompanying slide.  So why is it that people feel the need to have a zillion wordy slides behind them when presenting?  The only effect they're having is to distract the audience away from the presenter… which is surely the last thing they should want.

There are several reasons. First, people genuinely believe it’s ‘best practice’ (if only). They’ve seen it done by their bosses and peers, so they copy it, without giving one thought to the ‘greats’ like Steve Jobs who never had a bullet slide in sight. 

Second, some prefer the security of hiding behind their slides (“don’t look at me, look at the screen”) . Yes, presenting can be nerve-wracking without the right tools and techniques – but using your slides like a drunk uses a lamp-post (for support and not illumination) isn’t the best option if you want the audience to buy you as a person, and your message. 

Third, it’s just so easy - you have a presentation to give, so you start with your slides. You write your content, colours and animation, then use them as your notes as you present, and probably hand them out too.

The end result? You've blown your opportunity to display your personality and win them over with your charisma and passion for your subject. Because you've succeeded in completely distracting them away from where the personality and real message is.

Slides (and any visual aid) should be used to reinforce what you’ve already said.  And they should be visual - graphs, charts, diagrams.... So next time you're presenting, decide on your key message and supporting topics first. Then structure it well.  And then - and only then - ask yourself “Now what visuals can usefully reinforce this message?”.  How often do the slides come first when they should come last?   

You manage to describe your latest holiday to your colleagues perfectly well without a set of bullet-laden slides. But I bet you’d show your holiday snaps – now they really do reinforce what you've said.

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A Word to the Wise - Effective Communication Tips from Lionheart Consulting