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Size doesn’t matter, it’s how you put it

Don't let your audience drift offI’ve been putting together a presentation for a seminar I’m giving on link building in a fortnight’s time and now I think I know what they mean by the term “Death by PowerPoint“.

Nowadays, not a meeting goes by when someone doesn’t trot out their latest slide deck, something which they’ve spent hours and hours over and which looked good on the preview, but when it comes to actually giving the talk it either sends the audience to sleep or simply looks dumb.

I’ve been guilty of both of those.

In fact, I’ve never been that much of a fan of PowerPoint. That may be because I enjoy getting up in front of an audience and letting rip.

In such cases, I move too fast for PowerPoint. Either the animations are lame, or I reckon I can usually illustrate things better with a well-chosen website.

PowerPoint, according to some, has become the latest tool for transferring the notes of the lecturer to the student without passing through the minds of either.

Meanwhile, others stick to the maxim that “the BIGGER the presentation, the BIGGER the impact”.

That is a lie. Small is beautiful in PowerPoint as in any presentation: the power of speech wins every time.

Other things to avoid include

  • Only knowing your subject as far as the next slide: All it needs is for someone to think out of the box and ask a question that is not covered by the slide … Know what you’re talking about and be prepared to answer questions.
  • Composing slides to be read out: The best way to get the information across is to use slides as a backup to your presentation, not a substitute. Don’t just read them: simplify your points to one or two words and flesh them out verbally. The concepts will stick better.
  • Boasting about the size of your deck: Those 34 slides may be honed to perfection (you only spent six weeks doing them after all) but your audience will be losing concentration after the first half dozen, trust me. Stick to no more than four points and expand on them.
  • Using graphics to disguise b***shit! Glossy photos and complicated-looking graphs do not compensate for real facts. Use imagery only for emphasis and to break up your presentation into bite-sized chunks.
  • Thinking you’re Walt Disney: Animations, effects and sounds can be cool, but keep to a limited palette. Too many gizmos, bangs and whizzes can be boring, confusing and even downright embarrassing. Less is more.
  • Slowing down: If anything, the best presentations get faster as they go along, especially if that’s because the presenter is narrowing the subject to produce a final uncluttered climax and hit the point home.
  • Failure to launch: Always check your equipment out in plenty of time. Laptops have a habit of behaving badly as soon as they come within three feet of a projector, and projectors can be as temperamental as a prima ballerina. Try a dry run ahead of your actual presentationa