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Near Death by PowerPoint

Ever been stuck in an interminable meeting in which a speaker slogged through 101 frustrating PowerPoint slides? Ever finish sitting through a presentation and wonder, well, what the point was? It doesn’t have to be that way. Business strategist Rob Waite offers the following elements of a great presentation:

Ever been stuck in an interminable meeting in which a speaker slogged through 101 frustrating PowerPoint slides? Ever finish sitting through a presentation and wonder, well, what the point was? It doesn’t have to be that way. Business strategist Rob Waite offers the following elements of a great presentation:

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  • Before you do anything else, identify a maximum of three key points you want the audience to remember.
  • Determine why your audience should remember these points, so you can communicate that, too.
  • Open your presentation with the “why” in such a way that it takes no more than one minute to explain. If you can’t explain to the audience why your presentation is important to them within one minute, you’ve lost them.
  • Never forget that the audience cares less about what you have to say than you do.
  • Remember what you learned in fourth grade: Speak at an appropriate rate. Not too slow or too fast. And project your voice.

  • Communicate broadly through body language as well as spoken language.
  • Don’t use the podium unless you’re stuck reading a speech and it’s the only source of light. It’s easy to create the impression you’re holding on to it for dear life. Speakers who walk around a podium instead of rigidly standing behind it show more confidence, differentiate themselves from other presenters, and are more interesting to watch. Walking, talking and gesturing at the same time also is a great way to hide the yips because all the adrenaline doesn’t go to the throat.
  • Be so well-rehearsed that it doesn’t sound rehearsed. There’s no substitute for preparation.
  • Review your presentation with a trusted colleague or two to ensure it says what you think it says and is easily understood.
  • When using slides, organize your presentation so the titles of the slides alone tell the story. Any other text should simply support the title.
  • Don’t overuse distracting gimmicks like animation.
  • Never read the slides word for word. Their only purpose is to reinforce what the audience is learning.
  • Never spend more than two minutes on a slide.
  • Finally, and most importantly, prepare your presentation so that you don’t actually need any slides. If you can be effective without slides, you’re a great presenter. If you can do that, you can use slides to enhance your presentation, rather than leaning on them like a crutch.

If you’d like to learn more about Waite’s ideas for building better PowerPoint presentations, email him for a copy of his PowerPoint First Aid Kit, a voiced-over PowerPoint presentation that walks through and offers a template for the creation of a presentation.

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