You're all set to give an important presentation to your managers. You've honed your Powerpoint skills over many months. You're ready to dazzle your audience with your technological skills as characters fly in and out of your slides. But do you really think the slides will make your presentation more powerful and persuasive?
If so, think again.
Successful speakers think about barriers. To connect with an audience, you must remove the many barriers that could interfere with the link between you and your audience. These barriers could include the way you dress, the jewelry you wear, the manner in which you carry yourself, the vocabulary you use and your tone.
Experienced speakers know it is difficult enough to hold an audience's attention. Visual aids sometimes are not just visual crutches; they also can be additional barriers between you and the audience. If used carelessly, slides or other visual aids will detract from your presence and presentation, distract your audience and build a wall between you.
Think back over the last year. How many times have you attended a presentation only to see a cascade of Powerpoint slides chock full of information and numbing statistics, full of colors and characters intended to be entertaining, and slides that flew in every which way? Do you think these helped your speaker to connect with you? Did you find the speaker was more persuasive and influential with these slides? Or, do you recall when a speaker read his slides rather than looking you in the eye? Or when she used the slides as her "notes" to which she was tightly tethered?
Each of us can recall all of the above. These visual aids "aided" no one. They were the speakers' crutches, which needlessly created a tall barrier in front of them, as they peered over it unsuccessfully trying to connect with their audience.
Slides or other visual aids can be dramatic and useful tools. They can help create a deep connection between the audience and the speaker. Here are some tips to making your slides into valuable presentation tools:
- Speak to your audience, not to your slides. Always face your audience. Look them in their eyes. Move your gaze around to connect with all. Don't take your eyes off them to look at you slides or, worse still, to read the slides. This instantly will destroy the connection you are trying to achieve.
- Follow the KISS principle. Keep your slides simple, meaning plain language and limited content (preferably one thought on each slide). The slides are meant to reinforce your points by allowing your audience to absorb them visually. They are not supposed to make the points for you. That should be done through the power of your voice, your words, and your presence.
- Make sure everyone in the room, including those in the last row, can read every character in your slides. That means no fancy fonts or small print.
- Don't fall victim to the laser pointer or other handheld devices. Yes, these snappy gadgets are hip. But they are also distracting to an audience.
- Guard against the possibility that the slide projector will fail. Egads, what happens then? Will you be lost without your slides? If so, then you have not properly prepared your speech. And your precious slides probably violate all the rules anyhow if you cannot proceed in some credible fashion without them.
Would Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" be revered today if the first Powerpoint slide from which he read was:
Introduction to the Battle of Gettysburg:
- When? Four score and seven years ago
- What? The nation was founded by a group of wise and dedicated men (not women)
* They came from all states and different professions
* They decided to attempt to form a new nation
* A key concept was liberty and also the notion that all men were created equally by God and entitled to many things we consider inalienable (i.e., that cannot be taken away)
I think not.
Dr. Marc S. Friedman is a public-speaking coach and is associated with EZ-Speech. For more information, visit www.ez-speech.com.