The software application PowerPoint has been a revolution in public speaking particularly in the business world. PowerPoint is easy to use, available with almost every implementation of the Microsoft Office suite and it’s reliable. If you can use Microsoft Word, you probably have the skills to put together an effective presentation using PowerPoint.
But just like anything else, there is a right way and wrong way to give a talk using PowerPoint as a speaking tool. If you have ever sat in on a presentation where the speaker used PowerPoint unwisely, you know that the tool can become as much of a curse as a blessing to a public speaker. So it’s good to have some guidelines on how to use PowerPoint to help your presentation and not hurt it.
Knowing in advance some of the problems that can disturb your talk if you use PowerPoint unwisely can help you in the design of your slides. For one thing, it’s a good idea not to put too much text on a PowerPoint slide. If you put a long paragraph of information up on the screen, you will see people squinting to try to read it all. And even if the section of your talk refers to that text, you put your audience in the position of trying to read that text or listen to you. And either way they go, part of your message will be lost on them as they try to keep up.
PowerPoint comes with some really fun special effects like fonts and special effects like fade in or other ways text can be revealed on each slide. Avoid the temptation to get too cute with these effects. It’s always nice to have a little humor in your presentation but if your slides are overly “cutesy”, it reduces the credibility of your talk. Also if every slide uses a different special effect, color scheme or font, not only is that distracting to the audience, it makes you look like you just discovered PowerPoint and had to play with all of the toys it has. So establish some consistency in how each slide will look or behave and stick with it through every slide.
Another great device that PowerPoint offers is to allow the software to change slides for you on a timed progression. In that way, PowerPoint can change the slide every two minutes allowing you just the amount of time you want between slides. While this is also very slick, it is a dangerous toy to use because it can cause you to stumble while doing your talk. You have to have your talk planned to a high level of precision to carry off that kind of talk and if you pause too much, have a question pop up or any other disturbance in your script, PowerPoint will move on when you do not. So use this feature with caution.
Above all, do not turn your back on the audience to read a PowerPoint slide to them. This is the number one most common mistake people do when speaking using PowerPoint. Turning your back on your audience is always a bad idea. So if you must discuss what is on the slide, do so facing the audience. But to turn your back and then read a slide to them is insulting and boring to your audience.
It is far better not to have the text information on the slide but just a series of bullet items that are ticklers for the presentation you are giving. This approach assures that PowerPoint remains a tool that you are using not a tool that is using you. And that makes you the boss of PowerPoint which is the way it should be.