To understand how to use PowerPoint well, we need to understand how we take in information.
Important Fact 1: Your brain does not multitask. (Even if you are a woman.) For example, you can either read or listen to a presentation. You can’t do both simultaneously. (You can flip back and forth, of course, but that’s quite taxing on the brain.) If faced with a choice of reading or listening, your brain will read.
Important Fact 2: You can read faster than someone can speak. But, while you are reading you are not listening. So, if you read someone’s slide and then tune back in to listen to them, you are getting the same information again, but delivered much slower. That means your brain is bored and it switches off. That’s the Death by PowerPoint feeling.
These facts have many implications for the design of PowerPoint slides. And it also means that what might make a good visual aid (something that accompanies a spoken presentation) is not the same as a good handout. i.e. the pitch book that you read at your desk in your office should not be exactly the same as the slides presented at a conference or at an investor meeting.
Important Fact 3: The different between a pitch book to be read and slides at a conference could be as different as the difference between Harry Potter the book and Harry Potter the movie. They both tell the same story, but communicate to the same audience in very different ways.
For a PowerPoint presentation to work well, you must use the right tools for the right job, and use them in the right way.
That means having
(1) leave-behinds designed to work as leave-behinds that will be read at the desk;
(2) visual aids that are really visual aids and add value to what you are saying; and
(3) some speakers notes that keep you on track.
Get this right, and your presentations will be much more effective and much more engaging.
It will also mean you will enjoy presenting more; and your audience will enjoy it more.
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Gerry Bastable Director, Blast Films