There are many mistakes that presenters make when using PowerPoint. What’s the most damaging and easily preventable mistakes?
PowerPoint is not evil. It’s simply a slide presentation software that is easy to use and many presenters have used it for decades. Because many presenters have used it so poorly, we have become complacent about poor PowerPoint presentations.
PowerPoint is a tool. Don’t allow the tool to cloud your thinking about how to accomplish your presentation goals. Put the tool aside and think about the purpose and goal of your presentation. Then select the best tools for the job.
Like everything else, it helps to revisit the fundamentals. In this case, these mistakes are so damaging because they are foundational.
The first mistake: Believing that the slides are the presentation.
This is the most important revelation. This is a mindset change. The slides are NOT your presentation. You are the presentation. If the slides were the presentation, we wouldn’t need you.
The truth is – you are the presentation, and you might deliver your message along various channels that might include, your spoken words, your delivery, the slides and the supplemental materials.
Your slides are not THE PRESENTATION. At best the slides might be part of your presentation. Take responsibility for the presentation and don’t delegate responsibility to the slides.
You are the presentation. You are the message.
The second mistake: Writing the presentation in PowerPoint.
Imagine this. You’ve been asked to deliver a presentation and the first step you take is to open PowerPoint and start creating a slide show.
That’s a terrible way write your presentation for two reasons. PowerPoint restricts your thinking. You will be inclined to write your script in PowerPoint which means your slides will be full of text.
Once you create a slide in PowerPoint you are less likely to delete it because it becomes precious to you. You become trapped by the thought, “Can’t delete a slide that I created.”
Instead, draft the presentation freehand. That might be writing on paper, a white board or flipchart. When you create freehand, you will tend to be more creative and more willing to explore, adapt and correct.
After you have drafted the outline of the presentation, then you can consider how best to convey each point. What stories will you tell? What challenges will you pose to the audience. What key information will you convey? What images might you add to reinforce your points? How will you use media including PowerPoint to complement your message and presentation?
The third mistake: Creating the slides to be the handout
You deliver your message in three ways: what you say, what you show and what you leave behind. Those three channels are consumed differently. They should support each other, and they should not be identical.
The words you speak should convey the concept, urgency and direction. What you show on the slide should convey images, relationships, relevance and direction. What you provide in the supplemental materials (don’t call them handouts because that sounds cheap) should convey the details to be studied later, (or before).
If people ask for a copy of your slides, consider that an insult because they believe the slides were the presentation. That means there was too much detail in the slides.
Put the detail in the supplemental materials which might be a printed document or pdf – but it’s not your slides.
Your slides are not your presentation and your slides are not the handout.
You are the presentation – Not your slides nor your supplemental material.
Are you clear on the differences?
Don’t blame PowerPoint. You are the presentation. If the presentation sucked – you were the problem.
Stop blaming PowerPoint and take control of your presentation.