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.

For this blog I interviewed Chris Davidson form the UK. Like I mentioned in an earlier blog, Chris is an experienced speaker and writer on the subject of presenting and founder of Active Presence. In the first blog I wrote about this interview, I explained why there are still so many bad PowerPoints in the world, based on the history of this presentation program.  In this blog, I will share Chris’ tips on how to use PowerPoint to really get your message across and how you can present yourself as an advanced speaker. But first, I will start off with a question I asked Chris: How come there are still so many bad PowerPoints, while there is so much good and practical information available on making an effective PowerPoint presentation?

There are no bad PowerPoints, just bad speakers
Chris says that isn’t about the bad PowerPoints, but primarily about the bad speakers. Many presenters in the business world don’t want to become an amazing speaker, they just don’t want to make an idiot of themselves. That is their definition of a successful presentation. They don’t want to be good and that is the first problem.

The second problem is that we tend to base our way of presenting on the way our bosses and colleagues do it. We don’t have to be better at it than our boss. It’s only when someone realizes the minimal success isn’t enough, room gets created for improvement.

The third problem is that many people don’t understand the basic principles of good communication. Too often, people try to cram all their knowledge into a single presentation to create an image of expertise. They share everything they know. But that doesn’t work.

Be aware of the essence of communication
Whenever you speak, it’s always about the audience. I have mentioned this earlier in previous blogs. Chris makes clear that, as a speaker, you should be able to select only the information that is useful for your audience. So it’s about the art of leaving things out. When you do this, you get the essence of good communication. Then you can start making good material. You can start to entirely focus on the essential information your audience should know. Al the other stuff can be deleted; unnecessary words, logos and slide numbers.

To add headlines or not?
Whenever you use a standard PowerPoint template, Microsoft doesn’t only invite you to work with bullet points, it also wants you to add a headline to every single slide. Many speakers also do this. I was curious to know if Chris is a proponent of these headlines. Overall, he isn’t and he doesn’t use them for the exception of the rare occasion he uses bullet points. Then, he also adds a headline. Why would you need a headline? Hollywood doesn’t have headlines. The director just runs the story. So, delete everything in your PowerPoint that is unnecessary and create a presentation which shares the essence of your message in a clear way.

What makes a presentation a good one?
A good presentation is a presentation where the audience feels involved. With the use of PowerPoint, you give your audience a continuous visual experience. People should not be able to distinguish the visual slides, they should just see images that change. If they are aware that they are looking at slide one, two, etc., it’s not good. Your audience just needs to hear a story, hear a narrative and see images that flow through synchronously with the script. They should not be aware of the number of slides different transitions, etc., you used during your presentation.

How to present yourself as an advanced speaker?
An advanced speaker is able to give an entirely integrated presentation. According to Chris, it’s a little bit like when you’re singing in harmony and the melody goes from the altos to the sopranos for a few phrases and then goes back to the altsection.  You can move your message around between your text and your PowerPoint. When you involve your audience in an integrated presentation, they know exactly when to look at the screen and when to focus on you again. To achieve this, it is very useful to incorporate the slide changes into your script. Create your own click list.

If you want to present yourself as an advanced speaker, you need to incorporate everything you say with everything you show. Think hard about what to share with your audience and what not. Minimalize as much as possible to really find the essence of your story.

Frowa Schuitemaker is an expert on professionally connecting with your audience by using PowerPoint and how to speak with more long-term impact.