It was morning and the audience seemed attentive, sitting upright on their chairs, pencils poised.
About 30 minutes later I walked by again, and everyone was slumped in their chairs; they were barely looking at the screen and the presenter seemed completely oblivious to the impact his presentation was having on his audience because his face was buried in his notes.
I looked at the slide that was up on the screen and it was all words, lots and lots and lots of words; no graphs or illustrations, and I made an assumption that the presenter was reading exactly what was on the slide.
This ubiquitous presentation tool has become an automatic choice for most presenters and unfortunately, most presenters really don’t know how to get the most from PowerPoint, thus creating audience turn-off.
A lot of people rely on PowerPoint and that’s where many of the problems lay – the dependence on PP to ‘do’ the presentation instead of the presenter doing the presentation.
A few years ago I went to a lecture where there was a technical glitch and the speaker had to present without her PowerPoint. She was really beside herself and got into an almighty flap which of course ruined her presentation.
She forgot one of the key rules about presenting – it’s you making the presentation not the technology. Technology is there to support, entice, enhance – it isn’t there (or shouldn’t be there) as the main event. The main event should always be the presenter so that if something goes wrong with the technology it’s no big deal.
It’s you they’ve come to see.
And that’s often the problem with how PowerPoint is used.
Most people don’t like to present; they’re scared of it. Understandable as it always tops the list of what people fear most.
Along comes PowerPoint and either consciously or unconsciously people leapt at it as a salvation – they didn’t have to feel exposed or vulnerable; they could hide behind the PowerPoint, so over time the technology became dominant and people didn’t necessarily have to face their fears about presenting.
Additionally, because PowerPoint makes it easy to produce slides crammed with data another pattern emerged: presenters indeed pack their slides with facts and figures and then read the exact words that are on the slides. They don’t really present; they verbally replicate what the audience is staring at. Because people read faster than they can hear, a mismatch occurs with audiences finishing reading the slides before the presenter finishes talking and then they get bored waiting for the presenter to catch up.
Thus situations like the one I passed where an eager audience morphs into anaesthetised-looking zombies.
The sad thing is that PowerPoint can do a terrific job if presenters slashed the number of slides they produce and got more creative in how they use them.
PowerPoint would do an even better job if presenters stopped hiding behind it, came out from behind the slides, took centre stage and consigned the technology to its rightful place.
Check out Impact Factory’s PowerPoint with Impact, Elite Five Day Presentation with Impact and range of Presentation courses.
By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory