A topic I sometimes return to is how to give an effective presentation. This is a skill that everyone should know. Giving a poorly crafted presentation can hinder your message; if you can't effectively communicate your vision, how will people get on board? But a well-done presentation can inspire others to do great things.
Most people use Powerpoint to give presentations. This is either a tool to help communicate your message, or a beautiful impediment to understanding. My preference for using Powerpoint, to paraphrase my friend Brian McDonald: Don't use Powerpoint. Find some other way to share your ideas, something to engage your audience. But if you must use it, I have four rules to giving an effective Powerpoint presentation:
- Avoid distractions.
- Use slides that are visual, not wordy.
- Share your enthusiasm.
- Leave room to talk around the bullet points.
In general, keep your presentation clear, concise, and only use a few highly illustrative slides to back up your talking points. A photo. A chart. 2 or 3 bullet points. Let your audience focus on you, not your Powerpoint slides.
Start with energy, and tell a story. Take your time, and don't get distracted. Avoid overstating. Remember that Powerpoint can be dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control.
I'm attending a university technology conference this week, and I hope not to see any presentations like this one:
While intended as a stand-up comedy act, this is a poignant reminder of how easily we can go wrong when giving a presentation, with or without Powerpoint. But especially with Powerpoint.