5 PowerPoint Crimes (and how to avoid committing them)


PowerPoint doesn’t ruin presentations; Presenters do. That’s right. PowerPoint gets an endlessly bad wrap, but let’s be honest – the software can’t create slides on its own. Presenters do that, and unfortunately, most of us do it badly. Here are the five biggest PowerPoint crimes. Stop committing them and you’ll be heard!

Crime #1: Filling your slides with lots and lots of text. I know, I know, you have to put all of the information on the slide so that your audience will know it. Here’s the thing; audiences read and listen with the same side of their brains. So when you put a slide up on the screen that forces them to read, you’re requiring that they make a choice.They are either going to read or listen.They cannot do both at the same time. Thus, they’ll do one of three things: they’ll ignore you and read the screen (making you superfluous), ignore what’s on the screen and listen to you (making your slides superfluous), or read the screen as quickly as they can and then listen to you (at which point you’ll have been talking and they’ll be lost.) none of these scenarios maximize understanding for the audience.

Instead of lots and lots of text, how about a graphic that shows what you’re telling? How about a chart or graph? Maybe even an evocative photo? Something that visually reinforces what you’re talking about will not only help your audience understand it, it will increase their remembering of it.

Crime #2: Reading the lots and lots of text you’ve put on your slides. News flash: YOUR AUDIENCE CAN READ. They don’t need you to read the slides to them. (And they can read somewhere between 7-10 times faster than you can read it to them, so…) If you have all of the information you’re going to present on your slides, do your audience a favor – email them your slide deck and let them read it themselves at their convenience. Let’s not drag a group of people into a room to watch you read slides aloud. Don’t they have better things to do?

Crime #3:NOT being a control freak. Yes, you read that right. You want to control when and how the audience sees the information. You want to give them information to look at one bit at a time. If you put up a slide with lots to look at, who knows where they’ll look first, or for how long? Instead, make good use of the animation tool in PowerPoint to control what they see and when.

Crime #4: Making it fancy. When it comes to PowerPoint slides, plain is better. NOT uninteresting; your slides should be visuals that provoke thought and interest. By plain, I mean they shouldn’t be wild colors that don’t match your brand, you shouldn’t use every kind of image known to man; a photo here, a drawing there, clip art (ick) anywhere… Your slides should not bounce in, or checkerboard in, or zoom in. Fonts should be sans serif (arial, tahoma, calibri, verdana).

Crime #5: Cramming too much on one slide I’m asked all the time, “How many slides should I have in a 20 minute presentation?” My answer is, “As many as you need to illustrate your important points.” More important than your number of slides is your number of big ideas per slide. Think ONE: one big idea per slide. Sometimes we have to make a slide look like it’s building when PowerPoint’s software won’t do it for us by creating multiple slides.>Who cares? The audience only sees it as one slide that’s building information in a way that’s easy for them to digest.

Take a good look at your slide decks. Are you committing any of these PowerPoint crimes? If you are, I implore you cease and desist immediately. I promise you and your audience will have a much better experience. And you’ll be heard.

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