How would you answer this multiple-choice question?
Which of the following statements best describes your view about presenting using Power Point®?
1. My PowerPoint® presentations use every sound, clip art, and animation available.
2. My PowerPoint® presentation IS the presentation.
3. My PowerPoint® presentation enhances my points; is clear, clean, and concise; and my audiences walk away with a clarified message.
From the audience’s perspective, answer 3 is the better choice.
Let’s take a look at some common mistakes made when presenting using PowerPoint® and how to correct them.
Mistake #1 – The Projected Image on the Screen Is My Comfort Blanket.
Solution: Set up your computer so that it is facing you. This way you can be facing the appreciative audience and you don’t have to look at or read from the screen. The last thing the audience wants to see is the back of your head. What you are seeing on your computer screen is the same image that is projected on the screen behind you. Keep eye contact with your audience to engage them in your presentation.
Mistake #2 – Leaving a Slide on the Screen Keeps the Audience’s Attention.
Solution: A slide should be on the screen only as long as you are talking about related material – somewhere between 30 seconds and two minutes.
Tip: To blank out a screen, just press the “B” key to turn the screen black or press the “W” to turn the screen white. This only works when you are viewing a show. To illuminate the screen, press the “B” or “W” again.
Value-added hint: Research has shown that audiences will remember your presentation best if they are allowed an opportunity to digest a new slide for a few seconds before you start speaking – especially if the visuals are complex.
Mistake #3 – I Have To Go Through My Slide Show in a Linear Fashion – i.e., Slide #1 Followed by Slide #2 and So On.
Solution: You can navigate through your presentation any way you like. If you want slide #23 to follow slide #1, be sure you are in View Show mode, then just press 2 and 3 on the numeric key pad followed by “enter.’ PowerPoint® will automatically go to slide #23. This also is another good reason to print your slides as Handouts with the slide numbers on them. I usually print my slides in handout form, 6 slides to a page.
Mistake #4 – It is Too Bad PowerPoint® Doesn’t Provide a “Pen”* Function to Write on the Screen While Presenting.
Solution: For those of you who like the “John Madden approach”*, you can press Ctrl “P” while presenting and a John Madden-style pen will come on the screen. Hold the left mouse key down while moving your pen around the screen, and you too can analyze the “play.” To make this work, use the Tools pull-down menu and go to Slide Show. Choose your pen color. (Make sure it contrasts and compliments the background color of your slide.)
* John Madden, a famous football announcer on television, is known for using a pen on the screen to show how a football play occurred.
Mistake #5 – Audiences Are Wowed By All the Animations and All the Transitions I Use.
Solution: Less is more (see my complimentary article “12 Mistakes Made When Creating PowerPoint® Slides and How to Correct Them”). I recommend that you give the audience a copy of your presentation so they can follow it while you are presenting. Show the material on a slide without any animations. Your audience will already know what’s coming. On the other hand, if the audience will not receive a copy of your presentation as a handout, you should use some animation, but remember- less is more.
Mistake #6 – The Room’s Lighting Won’t Have an Impact on the Visibility of My Slides.
Solution: Check out the environment in which you will be presenting. First, try to make sure that all lights that directly hit the projected screen are turned off. (You may need to climb on a latter and unscrew some bulbs!). Light text on a dark background looks best in a dark or slightly darkened room. In a lighted room, a dark background may look so faded that your light text won’t show up well. For this kind of situation, it doesn’t hurt to try dark text on a lighter background.
Let me digress. While we are on the subject of lighting – do not subject your audience to a presentation in a dark room. At all costs, try to have the most light possible without diluting the impact of the color of your slides. Other than in a movie theatre, a darkened room will put people to sleep, and hopefully this is not one of your objectives. (See my complementary article “12 Mistakes Made When Creating PowerPoint® Slides and How to Correct Them.”)
Mistake #7 – My Presentation is So Powerful that My Audience Will Be in Their Seats As Soon As The Break is Over.
Solution: If you take breaks during your presentation, I highly recommend using a break “timer”* which is projected onto the screen. I use a count-down digital timer and can even put my client’s logo as the wallpaper behind the digital clock. http://www.indezine.com/products/powerpoint/cool/countdown01.html
Mistake #8 – The Presentation Pop-Up Menu Helps Me Run Through My PowerPoint® Presentation.
Solution: Turn off the presentation pop-up menu. It is a sign of a Power(less) PowerPoint® presenter. Go to the Tools pull-down menu, then to View and uncheck both the Pop-up menu on right mouse click and Show Pop-Up Menu Button.
Have fun with your next PowerPoint® presentation. Your audience will appreciate the care you show by make a presentation that is lively, fun, and targeted towards them. And, you’ll get a standing ovation.