I wonder what that could be, you’re asking yourself.
If I mention the word PowerPoint, I’m sure you’ve got a good idea.
The great corporate presentational myth is:
The slides are the presentation and your spoken words are merely there to support the slides
If you work in a corporate environment, I’m sure you’ve heard things like “Is the presentation ready?”. And you know, without a doubt, they mean the PowerPoint slide deck, not whether you have prepared and rehearsed an insightful and entertaining talk.
You’ve probably heard of the term “Death by PowerPoint”. I sure you have indeed felt like dying if you’ve had the unfortunate experience of sitting through a presentation of nearly 2 hours, with 150 slides, all filled with complex graphics with the figures too small you can’t even read them, let alone understand them. And of course, the rest of the slides with lots of bullets and full sentences.
Bullets kill people and lots of bullets in a presentation kill people with boredom.
In my reading and research around presentation skills I come across information such as, ’30 million PowerPoint presentations are created every day.’ That’s a lot of slides. And my question is – how many of those PowerPoint presentations could stand alone, meaning the presenter is not needed to add any spoken word? The answer is, too many.
The great corporate presentational myth expects you to email the slides to your audience after the spoken presentation. If the slides contain all your ideas and information in words and can act as a stand alone document, then why bother wasting people’s precious time by asking them come to hear you speak?
Let’s get one thing clear:
The slides are not the presentation, YOU are the presentation.
People attend a presentation to hear you give your perspective on a topic. They want to hear things from you that they can’t get from reading a report or doing research on the internet.
They want to be inspired by your passion and enthusiasm.
They want to hear how you can ease their pain and solve their problem. And they want to believe you can actually do that by hearing and feeling the conviction in your voice.
The words YOU say are more important than the words the audience read from the slides. Don’t try to compete with text heavy slides, you will lose. The audience can read faster than you can speak and worst of all, they can’t read and listen to you at the same time.
I remember a client of mine in one of his coaching sessions had an insight which I’m sure will always stay with him. It was:
I AM THE TEXT
Visuals should always be the secondary focus. If most of the audience’s attention is focused on the slides, you have lost the leadership of your own presentation. That is sad place to be in.
But slides are great if they are used appropriately. Using slides appropriately means using them sparingly and meaningfully. They must enhance your verbal message and deepen the audience’s understanding of certain points and concepts.
When thinking about using a visual, ask yourself – does this slide show something that I can’t do full justice to with my words? A positive answer to this question should be the criteria for showing a slide.
It’s not about whether YOU need the slide, it’s about whether the audience need the slide.
For maximum impact use minimum slides, but make those slides absolutely stunning.
For maximum impact on each slide, place minimum information, ideally an image.
The slides are for the audience’s benefit, not yours. If you need slides as a prompt for what to say when you stand up and speak, then the hard truth is that you haven’t rehearsed enough.
It seems that at the root of the corporate presentational myth there are three factors:
- A lack of empathy for the needs of the audience
- A disregard for the amount of time it takes to prepare an effective presentation
- An unwillingness to challenge established company habits
In relation to point 3, I hear people say things like:
“My boss says I have to use these slides” – slides that contain 8 bullets, full sentences and often a complex graph or two thrown in for good measure!”.
“But that’s how we do it here and we can’t change it”
Let’s be more assertive and insist on change. If the great corporate presentational myth persists, companies will continue to waste people’s time on boring, ineffective presentations that don’t achieve their objective and that never make a difference
It’s time to get rid of the great corporate presentational myth and move into the modern age of effective public speaking and presenting.