I’ve used the Microsoft family of products for many years and have even trained others to use Microsoft products effectively. PowerPoint was one of the last of the “family” that I became an expert in using. PowerPoint really is one of the most compelling and persuasive of all business presentation tools in the marketplace today. However, if you don’t know how to use it correctly, it can have quite the opposite effect. It can be your friend, but you must pay attention to a few guidelines. Here are the top 7 mistakes to avoid at all costs.
1. Don’t depend upon PowerPoint to cover up for your not having a compelling presentation. In some ways, Power Point’s ease of use just might be its own worst enemy. It’s so easy to build impressive slides that really pop with color and graphics, but the slides need to enhance what you have to say, not take your place as a speaker. However impressive and compelling you make your PowerPoint presentation, make sure your spoken remarks are equally engaging. Always remember you are creating slides to support you as a speaker. To sum it up – PowerPoint makes slides, people give presentations.
2. Don’t forget to…Simplify, simplify. See that your charts are simple and easy to understand. Make certain that your graphics really reflect your point. Don’t just throw in graphics to decorate the slides. Use short sentences or headlines. Don’t repeat every word of your presentation on your slides. Remember – it’s there simply for support, not to give the whole presentation.
3. Don’t read your slides to the audience. I’ve seen so many people stand up and just point and click and read the material that is on the slides. It makes it seem that the only reason you’re there is to use the clicker. After all, anyone could point and click, but you’re there because you have expertise in something and people want to hear YOU. It also creates a very boring presentation when the audience is simply reading along with you. Always keep eye contact with your audience. Have much more to say that what is on your PowerPoint slides. And for goodness sake, don’t stand with your back to the audience so that you can read the slides. No one wants to see the back of your head, no matter who your stylist is!
4. Timing is everything – Don’t ignore it. Make sure your comments aren’t timed precisely with the advance of a new slide. That’s distracting to your audience. If you have a well-orchestrated presentation, your slide will appear when the audience has time to read it, digest what it says and then look to you to follow up with comments that expand the subject matter they’ve just seen on the screen. Cheri Kerr, a pubic relations consultant from Santa Ana, CA, says, “Never talk on top of your slides.
5. Don’t forget to use colors and graphics effectively. Don’t let your presentation be boring or hard to read. Use vibrant colors and striking contrasts with backgrounds and words in your slides. PowerPoint offers many graphics as part of a clip art package, but you should search out and use outside images – both pictures and graphics, and even video.
6. Don’t pass out printed material before your presentation. Some folks may not agree with this, but I have found it to be terribly distracting to be speaking to a room full of people who are studying the handouts. I recommend waiting until the end of your presentation to distribute printed material. I know there are exceptions when printed material will be imperative, but let it be the exception rather than the rule.
7. Don’t forget to take a break from the slides now and then. Experienced PowerPoint users know that the slides are just a visual enhancement to what is being spoken. Therefore, they are not at all shy about letting the screen go blank once in a while. It’s an opportunity to give your audience a visual break and to give yourself a chance to focus on the interaction with you and your audience. This is especially effective during a Q&A session.
Bonus: I know I said 7 mistakes, but here’s a bonus for you… Never use a presentation that has not been ruthlessly edited and proofed by more than one person. I’m an excellent copywriter and have made a good living with my writing skills. However, I always have another set of eyes to proof important pieces before putting them before the public. It doesn’t matter how good you are, you’re not too good to get someone else’s opinion, especially with PowerPoint, because it’s much more than just correct spelling and grammar here – it’s the use of color and graphics and must be appealing to the eye. Don’t skip this step.
To learn more about how you can use Microsoft’s PowerPoint and other Microsoft software products, just click on office.com/setup . Thank you for reading.