Death by PowerPoint! (cont.)

OK, so if you read last week’s column, I talked about being careful not to drag an audio guy through a visual presentation (or vice versa). We need to figure out how our clients like to be presented to before imposing a one size fits all format.

But now let’s assume that we DO have a visual person on our hands and he has INVITED us to show our deck. That is great, so long as we DON’T do the following (which, unfortunately, I see time after time): 

  • Feature pages that are cluttered with visuals and therefore hard to absorb. Stick to a couple of key points or graphics per page.
  • Use words or numbers that are too small to read. I ‘love’ it when someone says . . . “I know this is too small to read  . . .”    Well then why are you wasting my time throwing it up there? I guess I am not important enough for a readable presentation.
  • Use AV systems that are difficult to set up, killing early meeting momentum. (We should get there early to set up so we are not wasting the buyer’s time fiddling around).
  •  Deploy too many (often, WAY too many) slides.
  • Do not pause frequently to see if the buyer is engaged . . . asking for questions and comments.
  • But here is the BIG ONE.  Turning our backs on the buyer and reading the slides verbatim.  This conflicts with some MAJOR communication research and techniques.
    • First of all, in terms of research on body language, turning our backs on the audience is subliminally processed as a break in intimacy, at best, and an insult, at worst.  If nothing else, we should remember never to turn our backs and try to maintain eye contact at all times.
    • Second, people can read several times faster than we can talk. So while we are happily grinding through point number two, they have finished the entire five point list and are starting to zzzzzzzzz.

It’s better to have a slide with a great graphic and a few, readable points.  As we show the slide, we can allow the audience to absorb the graphic and the points. We can turn our heads and angle our bodies slightly to refer to the slide, but we should talk about the slide in our own words, not read the verbiage verbatim. We should be scanning the audience for reactions, and if we see an eyebrow raised, be poised to say something like . . . “Bill, do you have a question?”  The session then becomes more intimate, more interactive, and the PowerPoint becomes supportive, not the center of attention. Because, remember, at the end of the day, the star of the show is not the PowerPoint . . . or us . . . it is the audience.

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