These days, it seems like a day does not go by without being subjected to a PowerPoint presentation. As this mode of communication becomes ubiquitous, it’s important to remember this simple fact: “Just because your message is in PowerPoint doesn’t mean you’ve communicated it well.”
To avoid becoming a PowerPoint abuser, here are five deadly sins you should avoid.
Sin #1: Using PowerPoint indiscriminately
PowerPoint was designed to be used in presentations. You know, those things that you project on to large white screens so that (usually large) groups of people can view them easily. So I’m shocked at the number of people who are sending me letters, articles and text-heavy reports created in PowerPoint. It’s as if they were too lazy to open Word to type – they’ve got so used to typing in PowerPoint that it’s become the default program for anything they create on their computer.
That’s just stupid. If you are writing a letter, memo or report, you do not create this in PowerPoint. Use PowerPoint for the very activity it was built for – presentations.
Sin #2: “I know you can’t read this, but I’ve included it anyway …”
If I had a dollar for every time someone said this in a presentation, I would be a millionaire. If your audience can’t read it, why the hell include it? I’m not suggesting that the information is not important – it probably is! But if you really want to communicate its importance, you need to present it in a way that’s digestible, understandable and (at the very least) readable by your audience.
Sin #3: Too many words
Don’t use PowerPoint as your notes for the presentation. Write these down somewhere else. The purpose of your PowerPoint is to be a visual guide for your audience – not a thesis. If you include every point you want to make – and then proceed to read each one – you’re not doing yourself any favours. Include a summary of the key points you want to make and expand on each of them verbally. Don’t make your audience read every word. Especially if you also commit Sin #2 and they even make out what’s on the screen.
Sin #4: Not enough pictures
If your PowerPoint presentations are 100 per cent text, then you need to seriously rethink your style of presenting. Includes pictures gives your readers a break from a text. It allows some breathing space so they can absorb the data and ideas you’re disseminating.
Imagine reading through a magazine. You’ll notice that some pages are heavy with text. But then readers are given a break with images and photos. The ratio of text to images ebbs and flows. The same concept works for your PowerPoint presentations.
Sin #5: Too much data, too few stories
It can tempting to load your presentation with statistics, data and the exciting numbers you discovers from crunching your Excel spreadsheet. This kind of data is important. But don’t use it at the exclusion of powerful stories. What do I mean by this? Well, it’s fine to feature a pie chart to make a point. But if you back this up with a human story that illustrates the point you are trying to make, this is going to resonate with – and be remembered by – your audience more than a fancy graphic representation of numbers.
PowerPoint is here to stay. It can be a powerful tool to communicate your message. But if you want to be truly effective, make sure that your dot points and data are complemented with the right images and stories.
This article first appeared on Nett.com.au.