I just got over a headache from trying to read small print on PowerPoint slides. I really tried. I often lost track of the presenter because I was preoccupied with the visual. Felt like I was browsing an old telephone directory at 25 paces.
So, I gave up on the PowerPoint and decided to listen to the speech. Now the problem was in my ears and brain. About every other sentence contained data – numbers, percentages, financial comparisons. I was stumped. Couldn’t read the slide. Couldn’t keep all those figures in my head.
Worse still, the verbal barrage of numbers was NOT on the slides. Therefore, not only did I have trouble with the PowerPoint and difficulty with the spoken data, the information conflicted. Which was I supposed to pay attention to? The speaker or the slide?
I know this has happened to you in an audience. It’s maddening, isn’t it? Especially when the presenter is delightful but the self-inflicted formalities of the presentation, particularly the audio-video, make you feel like you have a learning disability.
This has occurred so many times that it puzzles me. There are countless articles online and in print on how to give presentations and especially how to use PowerPoint. You can’t turn around without running into them. So, why are so many smart people tripping over this problem?
I don’t know but PLEASE STOP IT!
Thankfully in this case the speech was saved by – the speaker. This person was charming, not reading from a script, discussing important matters, and ultimately won me over in spite of the presentation mechanics.
Here’s my plea. Local folks giving speeches are usually wonderful people doing marvelous work in our communities. We want to embrace you, we want to thank you, we want to appreciate what you have accomplished, but, doggone it, please avoid baffling us with unfathomable slides.
If all you have are slides for slides-sake then why not turn off the machine and just talk to us. Cut your personality loose. Sever your ties with the infernal projector. If you are like most community speakers you are passionate about your subject. Try the following pattern. Make a point, tell a story, make a point, tell a story, etc.
Listening to someone talk takes energy. That’s why when we hear a speaker say, “Let me tell you a story…” we can feel ourselves relax and go with the flow. I once saw a popular radio announcer only tell stories. He had no point that I could discern and wasn’t terribly funny but he sure was easy to follow – and – easy to like. Also, prepare your information with the audience’s interest in mind, not yours. It’s really about them, not you.
Six months after your speech people won’t remember what you said but they will remember you. So the challenge when you speak is to be the best “you” you can be.
If you can’t do the make a point tell a story thing then at least place larger words and pictures on your slides, match them with your comments and, unless you’re a pro, don’t use too many. And except if it’s a technical audience that needs details then try to keep the data to a minimum.
We want to love you when you speak to us. Please help us.