Learning the hard way…

Much of the advice given in relation to successful presentations seems to focus on not only what you are saying but also on what you use to enhance it. We are told to use props to make it more exciting, and to use PowerPoint to make it more interesting but while attending a presentation recently I realised that it is very easy to go too far with this.

PowerPoint is a very useful and powerful tool which can be used to sum up what you are saying in useful bullet points, show graphs or charts to back up statistics or figures, and show simple diagrams, etc., but unfortunately it is also often used as the main focus of the presentation and can in fact work against the speaker.

It should be a prop and not the main character in your presentation.

I myself once made the mistake of putting almost everything that I was saying into my bullet points, and was told that my audience had read it all before I had said it, which was great because they were paying attention but also not good because it made the purpose of the presentation pointless. They weren’t actually even listening to me. I could have handed out leaflets and said nothing at all.

The other error that seems to be made quite often is the overuse of PowerPoint tools. A bright, colourful, and eye-catching background might make it stand out more but it also draws too much attention away from the speaker. The swirly texts are fun, but if the audience is struggling to read what is on the whiteboard/screen then they aren’t listening to what you are saying. The presentation that I recently attended had a very annoying cartoon character jumping around the screen, a mixture of different fonts and text sizes, and a bright yellow background. I remember the PowerPoint presentation but I missed so much of what the speaker was saying because I was focusing too much on the wall; even when I tried to look away it kept drawing my attention back to the slide-show.

It is fun to have a character, it definitely makes things more interesting, but keep things basic and try not to overdo it, have a character and plain slides. Or have colourful slides but a plain black typeset.

And if I could give one tip only, it would be to find out if it is possible to view the PowerPoint slide-show in the room you will be presenting in before you actually present; and do so from the back of the room so that you can see that the text is readable, that your backgrounds aren’t too bright, and that your little characters do not steal the limelight from you.

Sharren L Bessant


Published On: 8th Mar 2010

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1 Comment
  1. Dear Sir/Madam,

    I would like more effective and clourfull massagive, and powerpoint sides.

    Best regards


    Bharat Powar 9 Jun at 9:20 am