Are you overusing PowerPoint? Take this mini-quiz and find out:
1. Do you open PowerPoint as soon as you begin to prepare for a presentation?
2. Do you spend more time on fonts and layouts than on message construction?
3. Do you sometimes read aloud from your slides?
4. Do you find you can’t get through your whole deck in the time allotted?
5. Do you let your deck do the talking for you?
If you answered “yes” to any of the questions, you’re in danger of sacrificing both your power and your point!
PowerPoint is an illustration tool, not a delivery mechanism. By itself it has no power to make your messages relevant, inspirational or meaningful to your audience. A deck has no presence. YOU have presence. You can use your voice, your facial expressions, and your body language to show your passion for the topic, and the audience will then respond to YOU, and not to a bunch of bullet points. Remember, the audience asked YOU to talk to them. If all they wanted was a deck, they would have asked for that.
Speaking of bullet points, as an audience member you already know that bullet points cannot make one’s point. They are useful to summarize or to list, but research shows that slide after slide of bullet points is not only visually exhausting, it does nothing to elevate your message or engage or enthuse your audience. Even in a leave-behind, you have the opportunity to be more eloquent and persuasive using a narrative, report-style document than a reductionist form like bullet-pointed slides.
PowerPoint (or similar programs) have their place, of course. I find them helpful when teaching seminars or giving some keynotes for many reasons, not the least of which is something called “the picture superiority effect.” Research shows that people recall pictures more than words when more than 30 seconds have passed since the first viewing, especially when the picture is of something concrete and familiar. You’ll spot this easily: Notice when an audience member asks a presenter to go back to a certain slide where they had a question. If the speaker used powerful visuals, the questioner will say “Please go back to the slide with the pyramid” instead of “Can you go back a few slides…no, not that one, no, no…, yes, that one.”
If you’re a regular reader of mine, you know my mission in life is to improve YOUR professional presence. Therefore, a presentation cannot be just about the perfect deck, and yet that’s what folks obsess over, to the detriment of their overall impact.
Our addiction to decks is going to be tough to shake. Overuse has become so ubiquitous that I once saw a cartoon where the devil was interviewing potential job candidates for Hell, and one of the requirements was using PowerPoint! Don’t give your power away. Don’t kill your message with bullet points. You’re better than that…really!