Pointing your presentation in the right direction
By Max Pinczes, Scientell intern
PowerPoints have become so over- or incorrectly – used, that many audiences dread seeing a mass of slides come up on the screen. But if you do it right, a well-crafted PowerPoint can still be a useful tool.
Know your audience
Knowing your audience is the key to any communications, including presentations and accompanying PowerPoints. Before writing your presentation and PowerPoint find out as much as you can about your audience. For example, audience size, demographic, level of education and specific interests. It can also be useful to know what time of day you are presenting and in what context. Each of these factors will help you structure your presentation’s content, style and length.
Tell a story, then repeat it
Taking your audience on a journey, instead of just talking at them, is also important. When writing your presentation ensure that you take the time to signpost this journey. You can start your presentation by outlining what your audience should get out of the presentation, then tell them specifically what you want them to retain, and then reflect on what you just told them and why. This way, the audience hears the important information in several different ways. A great way to end the journey is by allocating time for a summary and then questions. This not only reinforces your messages but also enables an opportunity for clarification. Not everyone understands things the same way or at the same speed.
Less is more
When writing your PowerPoint, try to keep your slides under 30 words each. People will automatically read what’s in front of them, and they may miss what you are saying if they are distracted by reading a chunk of text. It’s better to keep your audience’s focus on you and then direct them to look at your slides – when you choose.
Make it visual
Filling your slides with images, icons and infographics that support your narrative, instead of text from your speech, is a good way of creating engaging but not distracting slides. As a loose rule, every slide should have one visual element, whether it be a graph, image, infographic, map or even meme. PowerPoint has some excellent tools to make this easy, including the ‘Designer’ function, icons, stock images, and stickers, and smart art. Familiarise yourself with these tools and use them to help replace excess text.
Do it like a pro
Another way to ensure that you are more engaging than your slides is to know what you are doing (or at least look like it). Don’t read your notes like a script. Instead, look at your audience and engage with them. Be enthusiastic and passionate about your topic. Have a confident and open body posture. Understand your venue and how to use the technology. Ensure that you have prepared your slides to suit the location (can you read the colours, is the text large enough?)
To help you prepare engaging presentations, consider the communication acronym ‘GAMPER’:
Goals – what is it you wanted to achieve through the presentation?
Audience – what does the audience want to hear and how does this align with what you will say?
Message – what is the key message you want the audience to remember?
Product – how does the product (your speech/presentation) communicate to the audience and is it in the appropriate format?
Evaluation – determine whether you achieved your goals.
Review – reflect on your evaluation so your next presentation is even better.