The word “PowerPoint” strikes fear into many people’s hearts, particularly those who are routinely subjected to lackluster, text-heavy presentations with little flair or visual appeal. Don McMillan illustrates this point in his now-famous YouTube video, “Life After Death By PowerPoint”:
Despite such criticisms, PowerPoint (and other similar presentation platforms such as Google Presentation and Slides) can be rather powerful and engaging tools for communicating information and ideas….if used correctly. Instead of using PowerPoint as a presentation aide to illustrate key points, presenters pack them with words, facts and data, often reading what is on the slide verbatim. To transform your presentations into engaging and interactive experiences for your audience, you should take advantage of PowerPoint’s primary strengths: to visualize ideas, to summarize and create key points and to impress and engage your audience (Kapterev, 2007).
Use PowerPoint to Visualize Ideas
Too many PowerPoints are text-heavy when they should be graphics-heavy. High-quality photographs, illustrations, video clips, animations and models are just some of the text-free ways that ideas can be conveyed, summarized or communicated. Perhaps the most salient relative advantage of PowerPoint over speeches, scholarly papers and other forms of communication is its ability to convey ideas visually, in addition to verbally/textually. If you’re not taking the opportunity to illustrate your point graphically in your PowerPoint, you’re not tapping into its true potential (and likely boring your audience in the process).
Use PowerPoint to Summarize Key Points and to Engage Your Audience
Be honest, you’re probably guilty of it: Instead of practicing your presentation until you know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it, you create a safety net for yourself by writing every (or almost every) word you’re going to speak on the slide. However, if all you do is read the words that are written on your presentation, what is the point of you being there? If your audience can read, then why not simply send your presentation to them via email?
Instead of creating text-laden slides that are likely putting your audience to sleep, embrace the opportunity to connect with your audience in person: practice your speech, limit your text to a few select words, and use the PowerPoint to help you tell a story. What photographs, video clips and animations can help draw the audience in or illustrate your point? What words or phrases should it contain that summarize your message or lesson? What questions can you ask that encourage the audience to think? Take the time to explore PowerPoint’s advanced options and make your presentations pop. In short, stop thinking of PowerPoint as the main way you’re conveying information to your audience (that should be you) and start thinking of it as a tool to help your audience visualize what you’re saying.
Kapterev, A. (2007) Death By PowerPoint [Slideshare slides]. Retrieved from: http://www.slideshare.net/thecroaker/death-by-powerpoint