You probably suck at PowerPoint presentations.
I know this because almost everyone does. No offense. If you are the exception, I really want to hear from you in the comments below.
It was the presentation I had planned for three weeks. It was to be the moment that I inspired my team, changed the course of our company, and…there was an audible thud from Nashville to each of the coasts. I was that bad.
What mistakes did I make and what can you learn from them?
Here is the first I made and what you can learn from them.
Mistake One: I spent all my time on the slides. I put my focus where it shouldn’t be: one the screen. I wrote and wrote, agonized over fonts, edited and re-edited. I searched and searched for the right images, moved slides here and there, and spent exactly zero time rehearsing what I would say.
Lesson One: The focus is on the speaker (you) and the audience, not the slides. Here are six ways to keep the focus on you and the audience:
- Write bullets, not sentences. People are going to read what is on the screen, whatever you give them. Do you want them to focus on reading the screen or focus on you? Proper grammar and correct English should be thrown out the window in favor of short bullets.
- Focus on speaking the key words from the bullets. That helps the audience keep pace with the slides but allows them to focus on you. Under no circumstances should you read what is on the screen.
- Face the audience. If it weren’t for the almighty presentation on the screen, would you dare turn your back on the audience? Of course not. When you face the screen, you convey that the audience should do the same. Keep your eyes on your audience as much as possible.
- Make yourself the center of the room. One of the worst things many companies have done in their conference rooms is to put the screen in the center of the room. A centered screen says “here is your focal point” and relegates you, the speaker, to the side of the room. You are now an afterthought to the almighty screen. If possible, move the screen to the left or right side of the front of the room. If you can’t do that, use tip #5…
- Darken the screen. No image or bullets could possibly be so good they deserve to be on the screen for more than one minute. So press the “B” key. That darkens the screen and allows you, the speaker, to reclaim your rightful place as the center of attention. When it’s time for the presentation to resume, press “B” again or go to the next slide.
- Stay silent with each new slide. The best way to not be heard is to talk as you introduce a new slide. When a slide changes, it draw’s the audience’s attention like a bright light on a hot summer’s night. Your eyes naturally go there. So does your brain. So if you want to be heard, keep quiet as you advance to the next slide and allow the audience to digest what is on the screen. To avoid a lengthy period of silent awkwardness, follow rule #1. Make the slides readable in ten seconds or less.
The first mistake I made was taking the focus off me, the leader, and putting it on the screen. Follow those six tips and you won’t make the same mistake.
But that wasn’t the only mistake I made. I made three more critical mistakes from which I learned some valuable lessons, so stay tuned tomorrow for part two. Subscribe to my RSS feed or get posts via email so you don’t miss it!
What qualities have you seen in great PowerPoint presentations?