Powerpoint – the good, the bad and the rather pretty solution

Luckily, every time I find myself searching for a blog topic, someone kindly asks me a new and interesting question during a meeting or workshop. One I recently received, from a highly experienced presenter and salesman just before Christmas, was “what’s changed in the presenting world in the last 20 years?”

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I’ve been in the industry for long enough to answer that question first hand and while I was going to write a blog on my top 6 changes, I realised that Powerpoint is such a substantial topic in its own right, and given I’m trying to write shorter blogs, I’ll stick to the one issue today and save the other 5 for next month’s blog and newsletter.

Without doubt, the most obvious change of the last 20 years, in presenting as elsewhere, is technology, or more specifically, the ubiquitousness of Powerpoint. “When I was a lad…” when I first started in this industry, we were still helping clients put together their transparencies for overhead projectors. Sometimes the deck would fall and all the slides would get muddled up, the lightbulb on the projector would blow, someone had mistaken the screen for a whiteboard and written on it in permanent marker and sometimes the key slide of the entire deck went missing in action.

The good news is that many of these troubles have been mitigated with the advent of Powerpoint. The bad news of course, as already mentioned, is its ubiquitousness (I could have said ‘prevalence’ or ‘pervasiveness’ but I like the word ‘ubiquitous’ and I’m secretly hoping everyone who reads this, takes it on board subliminally and sneaks it into a conversation or presentationin the next 24 hours making the word itself more ubiquitous.)

Leaving aside my excessive use of the one word, there’s a wonderful opportunity embedded in the problem which is that it doesn’t take much to look different from everyone else. Many, if not most, of the businesses I work with, still suffers from:

  • Too much clutter and detail on their slides because “our slide-pack doubles as our handout at the end of the presentation” – Major tip: don’t. Sorry. I know it seems like a hassle, but you’ll need a separate, more detailed, stand-alone document and an abridged version for the slides. The hassle will be worth it if they actually take something out of your visual presentation, it genuinely serves to support your argument and your slides are less crowded than your competitors;
  • Slides that look like everybody else’s – Similar to above, enlist your marketing team to help it look good and stand out;
  • Slides that all look the same as each other – Vary your bullets, graphs, tables, infographics and photos;
  • Simply too much reliance on the one medium 1 – Consider planning and using a second medium like a whiteboard, flipchart, physical prop or single page handout during the presentation to vary where our eyes are looking and create a ‘heartbeat moment’ that jolts us out of our ‘tv viewing mode’
  • Too much reliance on the one medium 2 – by blanking the screen from time to time (for those who’ve trained with me before, you’ll remember the ‘b’ button) to answer a question, ask a question of the group, tell a story or show something on the whiteboard, you’ll again wake them out of their reverie and build a more substantial rapport with the audience that gives you more humanness and connection than your competitors.

So vary it up to keep them engaged….and stay tuned as I round out my top half dozen changes to presenting in the last 20 years in my next newsletter.

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