Powerpoint Presentation Skills
Using Powerpoint isn't the problem
You probably need better Powerpoint presentation skills. I say that confidently, only because just about everyone I’ve seen use it, myself included, could have done way better.
The real problem most people have has nothing to do with how to use Powerpoint itself.
There’s not a lot wrong with Powerpoint as a piece of software, let’s face it. I mean you and I could probably stay up all night and we still wouldn’t come up with something as good.
There is a lot wrong with the way it’s used though.
This article is my contribution to the efforts of all those brave trainers and authors out there who are trying to change the world – of Powerpoint at least.
This article will be different to most about Powerpoint presentation skills, because it will assume you’ve never used a projector before, and step you through how to do a great job when the time comes to use one. If you’re not a complete beginner, you’ll probably still benefit, unless you’re one of the tiny percentage who get it right!
A Story About Powerpoint Presentation Skills
Here’s a little story based on what I’ve seen over the years. ( Over and over and over and over again. – to the point where I’m wondering is there a “How To Completely Ruin A Powerpoint Presentation” ebook or course out there? )
Sadly, this story shows a quite typical level of Powerpoint presentation skills.
The audience is arriving at the venue and Fred, the presenter, is still setting up the laptop and projector at the front of the room.
Things aren’t going well.
Instead of being relaxed and mingling among the arriving audience, Fred’s stressed out and sweating bullets.
As each minute goes by and the start time of the speech draws closer, he’s looking more and more like a condemned man.
The audience quickly pick up on the vibe and they’re not convinced by Fred’s clenched teeth grimace-smile, occasionally darted feverishly in their general direction. As they take their seat, they are treated to a symphony of ‘dings’ from Fred’s laptop. You know that annoying noise they make when you give your computer a command it stubbornly refuses to obey.Then Success!!
The blank blue which had been displayed on the screen at the front of the room , suddenly changes in a burst of colour – into a picture of Fred and his family clowning around at some beach resort last summer.
Embarrassment is added to panic as he mumbles something under his breath while trying to find a way to block the image from being displayed to the audience on the big screen. He finally resorts to a book placed precariously in front of the projector lens.
The book falls over several times and has to be re-balanced.
Each time treating the audience to a blinding flash of images from Fred’s powerpoint show. By about the 3rd such revelation the audience have a fairly good sense of his content, and some are squirming already because they’re sure they’ve heard this stuff before.
Our hero has finally reached the promised land. Powerpoint slideshow running. Projector showing it on the big screen.
Then there’s a deafening burst of music and everyone, including our hero, jumps at the shock. He forgot the rousing music he’s embedded in his slideshow would start as soon as his show did.
More apologies (much louder this time of course to get over the music). He frantically searches for the volume controls and then returns his slideshow to the one-click-before-the-music-starts position.
He’s dripping with sweat as he removes the book to reveal – an out of focus, badly keyholed image on the big screen. Not only that but only part of each slide is showing. There’s obviously some sort of problem with the screen resolution between the laptop and the projector.
Book blocker back in place. Several more frantic minutes go, this time having to re-position the big screen as well.
Now Fred’s ready.
Or is he?
He gets through his warm introduction, even getting a few much needed laughs which helps to relax both the audience and himself.
Then he casually flicks his clicker in the direction of the laptop and ... nothing happens. Nothing, that is except several more flicks of Fred’s clicker hand, each more emphatic than the last, some even accompanied by barely audible sounds a bit like a kitten’s meow.
Unfortunately Fred’s clicker has no battery so it remains resolute in it’s refusal to perform.
Fred is left with no choice but to make some bitter remarks about the clicker manufacturer, and then explain he’ll run the show from the laptop instead. This enables him to pass between the projector and the screen every time he advances a slide, providing the audience with an unwanted shadow show.
It takes him several attempts to work out which of the many buttons on his laptop keyboard will help him and which will cause him further misery. Finally, after skipping ahead through half a dozen slides, then plunging to the end of the slideshow, then exiting it involuntarily – Fred regains control.
We’ll leave Fred here.
The main point from this story is all of this drama happened before Fred even started his performance. He hadn't demonstrated any Powerpoint presentation skills, because he hasn’t even started using it!
This is the aspect to focus on as you prepare for your own Powerpoint show. Forget about all of the bells and whistles in the software, until you can perform these basic tasks with expert level skill:
Essential Powerpoint Presentation Skills
- Get the whole audio-visual arrangement setup at least 30 minutes before the first audience member is allowed to enter the room. At a minimum this means computer, projector and screen. It could also mean microphones, external sound system etc.
- Navigate your way through your slideshow with a remote control. This needs to be practiced unless you want to look like a fool. Most clickers on the market make it very easy for you to go in the wrong direction through your slide show and some even allow you to black out the screen with ease.
- Get your start and finish organized. Think about what the audience will be looking at and listening to as they’re getting comfortable before the performance. Will it be a stressed out incompetent? Or will it be some uplifting music played just loud enough to require them to raise their voices slightly (and hence the ‘energy’ in the room) and an attractive, welcoming slide up on the big screen? Likewise at the end of your presentation will the slides just meekly fizzle out to the default black screen or will you leave an inspiring message so they end feeling good about the show?
Have no sympathy for Fred. Instead feel for his audience. They turned up expecting a presenter who was ready to do his job. That’s not unreasonable.
He needs to learn, using Powerpoint is really all about using an audio visual presentation system properly, to help communicate with an audience.
When it’s your turn, if you get these 3 simple Powerpoint presentation skills steps right, almost all of your Powerpoint worries are over.
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