My experiences sitting through meetings and conferences (at Intel, and in class when I was in school) have made me appreciate the few times I have come across individuals who know how to deliver a compelling presentation. I often find myself barraged with information, of which 25% is actually relevant and 75% is filler, or other words,25% premium ground beef and 75% mechanically separated meat. So, in the interest of playing devil’s advocate, I’d like to offer a few recommendations based on some generalizations.
PowerPoints: Tech-savvy folks tend to provide too much information, usually with the intention of adding substance to (all!) of the knowledge they share (#overload). While, non-tech individuals tend to not provide enough substance to their information (#underload?). And the worst part? Tech and non-tech people alike are usually guilty of creating over-cluttered, distracting, and hard-to-follow PowerPoints (when used). What do I mean? My idea of a good PowerPoint is one that:
- Is understood sans presenter/creator’s explanation with the least amount of information used
- Is minimalistic and focuses attention on the storyteller
- Is either A or B, or a combination thereof—NOTE: ratio of A to B is highly dependent on the purpose of the presentation and audience
To create an informative, appealing, and/or persuasive presentation, one should follow the K.I.S.S. Rule (Keep It Simple Stupid Silly). Specifically, the K.I.S.S Rule serves as a guideline (and reminder!) that a good presentation is simple… in almost every sense.
What are the key points that make a PowerPoint and presentation good?
- PowerPoint is used when needed (not every presentation needs a PowerPoint. In fact, it may be argued that PowerPoint “stifles debate and conversation,” according to Steve Jobs)
…and when PowerPoint is used, there is…
- Minimal text (it’s easy to follow and the focus is on the speaker’s story)
- Use of compelling, non-pixelated, images (a picture says 1000 words, is much more appealing to the eye, and is a quick way to relay information)
- Consistent placement of text and images on slides (the last thing you want your audience doing is wondering where to look to follow your story instead of listening to it. So to make the presentation easier to understand, it helps to condition your audience’s mind)
- A “key takeaway sentence” that summarizes the point of the slide, is placed at the top of each slide, and is used when applicable (1. it’s human nature to zone out, and such takeaway sentences help to quickly level-set your audience. 2. Placement of the takeaway sentence at the top is to follow the English reader’s natural tendency to read left to right, top to bottom—though this varies across languages and should be tailored according to audiences)
- Focus is on the speaker storyteller and his/her words and not(!) on the PowerPoint behind him/her (this is especially important when not showing a video or demonstration)
And how do I know these techniques work??? It’s the same reason we see such trends in sleek technology designs of MP3, notebooks, tablets, and even advertisement.
Ask any communications, English, or speech professor, and he/she will tell you that giving a presentation is a fine art that takes time and practice to master. Ironically, my experiences have shown me that “practice does NOT (necessarily) make perfect,” and there are key qualities that make or break a presentation. So to avoid the “ho-hum mediocrity of current presentations,” remember to start with the K.I.S.S rule—and build off the basics. Then, steps two, three, and four may be taken to add of other story-telling techniques, like “how to sell your presentation” and “win over stakeholders.” But, I won’t get ahead of myself…I’ll save those nuggets of wisdom for another blog. :)
P.S.…oh! And for those of you angrily pondering the notion that a good PowerPoint cannot be “understood sans presenter/creator’s explanation” and have “minimal text”, I ask that you kindly refer the note I made in (C)—specifically, when I say a PowerPoint (if used) is “highly dependent on presentation’s purpose and audience.” Why? If we consider a technical presentation, for example, its main purpose may be to inform. Thus, a few equations and graphs might be needed to illustrate one’s thought process, whereas a non-tech presentation might need high-level narration, such as relevant infographics and sources to inform the audience.