PowerPoint is one of the most used presentation tools in the world. Just like me, I am sure, many of you have had to attend more than one too many boring presentations. I believe the time has come to change this. It is high time to start creating vibrant presentations to generate happy audiences as well as happy presenters. How you can achieve this when using PowerPoint? To provide good answers, I am interviewing experts from all over the world who also long for ending the era called Death by PowerPoint.
I met Gregor Fauma in the German city Ulm during a congress of the German Speakers Association. He is a keynote speaker and coaches people in preparing presentations and creating PowerPoints. I noticed Gregor has a clear vision. He gave solid answers to all of my questions. Let’s start with the thing he is thoroughly against.
What not to do as a speaker
According to Gregor, it is strictly forbidden to thank your audience for their attention. Especially if you do it with a slide which includes a cartoony sun, or even worse, a smiley. As a speaker, you have to work for the audience’s attention. You don’t receive it as a gift!
I agree with him. When you’re presenting, it’s a part of your professionality as a speaker to not only be able to purposely work with your audience’s attention, but you should also be able to direct it.
This is why Gregor doesn’t understand why so few people use the B-button and the W-button to turn their screen entirely black or white. This way you make sure your audience is entirely focused on you and not on the screen. This is one easy way to direct your audience’s attention.
What to do as a speaker
Whenever you are speaking, you want everyone in the audience to look at you. If you allow the attention to flow to your PowerPoint at the wrong time, you need a lot of stage presence to get the attention back. This is the struggle between you and your PowerPoint every single time.
Keep track of your audience when you are speaking. Whenever you notice your listeners are losing their focus, you need to slow down. On the other hand, when you feel your audience is actively following your story, you can pick up the pace. This makes the attention of your audience one of the crucial parts of a successful presentation. To be able to guide the audience’s attention well, it is crucial to prepare your presentation the right way. Gregor talked about this elaborately in the interview. He shared his views on the best way to prepare a presentation and his ideas on the amount of slides you should use for a successful presentation.
No more than 5 slides
I have noticed many people think differently about the number of slides one should use during a presentation. I believe you should use as many slides as it takes to deliver your message the right way. Gregor agrees with me, but also believes you should use no more than 5 slides. Whenever speakers ask him to take a look at their PowerPoint and as they prepare to show him 150 slides, he stops them and asks: “What is it about?” If they can tell it within five minutes, he asks: “Is there anything more I should know about your message?” If the answer is no, he says: “So why do you want to show me a 150 slides?” Despite the bad PowerPoints he sees all around him, he is a big proponent of the use of this presentation tool. Because, PowerPoint can not only support you in the delivering of your message, it can also help you structure your ideas.
The successful design of a presentation
Almost everyone nowadays can agree that the preparation of a presentation should be done away from your laptop. This way you will keep a better overview and you can give your creativity free reign when designing your slides. Gregor developed a step-by-step plan for the preparation of a presentation. He uses these steps in his own preparation and teaches them to all the speakers he trains.
Grab pen and paper and draw the boxes you will work in. You could see these as your future slides. Start with your first slide. Here you write down your name and your subject. Ask yourself questions like: What do I want to change? What has to be different at the end of my presentation? What is my goal and how can I achieve it? Write down just a couple words every time. This way, you will have created the main thread of your presentation.
Then, start asking yourself questions like: Do I need an image to make this point clearer? If the answer is yes, use PowerPoint. If the answer is no, don’t use it. To get more into details, Gregor likes to refer to his working environment.
The university library as a metaphor
Try to imagine your presentation as a university library. What do you do when you search for a book? First, you search on the subject. If you find a book that seems interesting, you open the book and read the extract. When it still seems fitting, you read the summaries. If you are still interested, you read the entire book. Whenever you use this method in the preparation for your presentation, it will be a good one. First, decide on the subject, then think of the core message your audience should get. After that, you can decide what further information should be added and what the complete content of your presentation will be.
Many speakers use less and less titles on their slides. But if you do, Gregor has the following advice: When you are making a PowerPoint, you should write a sentence on every slide that answers the question: What do I want to express with this slide. These sentences will become your headlines and are often enough. Ask yourself every time if more information is really necessary for your audience to understand the message. All the headlines together will form your story. Every headline from start slide to end slide should be fitting in your story. This is a good way to check the consistency of your presentation.
Keep an eye on your audience’s attention when you are speaking. It is your responsibility as a speaker and part of your professionality to get it right. The right guidance of the attention of your audience starts in the preparation of your presentation and therefore also in the design of your PowerPoint.
One last tip from Gregor. Never give your audience the opportunity to read ahead. Animate your slides so that the next sentence or image will appear when you want it to appear. Your audience can read faster than you can explain your ideas. If there is something to read on your slide. Just give your audience the time to read. Then let them return to you.
Do you want to present with more results? Frowa Schuitemaker is an expert on professionally connecting with audiences by using PowerPoint and how to speak with more long-term impact. She is the creator of the concept PowerPoint Intelligence.