“What could be delivered on PowerPoint couldn’t necessarily be delivered on Earth” was the strange, yet intriguing declaration that caught my eye recently in an article by the former ambassador of Iraq, Sir William Patey. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8440942.stm).
Strong words, I’m sure you’ll agree. It got me thinking, I wonder how many people are guilty of making PowerPoint presentations that may sound believable but just aren’t realistic. We never really doubt what we are being told, we just make the assumption that because that person is stood there telling us something that it has to be correct.
When we are designing our presentation, we all know that most of what we absorb is done through visual imagery, and that it is extremely important to include visual facts and figures on our slides, because this is the part that is going to be remembered by our audience. We are actively encouraged to present data in the form of a graph or chart. After all, you can talk non-stop for ten minutes about statistics, numbers, or accounts but what you have spent that time saying can be summed up in one clear, concise graph.
However, make sure that your data is correct. Don’t be tempted to add a little bit to make it look or sound better, no matter how tempting it might seem. It may be that your audience doesn’t notice, but if they do then you won’t be remembered for that great presentation you gave, or that wonderful chart you drew up, but you will be remembered for the huge untruth that you told, and those sorts of lies stick for a very long time.
From the other side of the proverbial coin, though, if you are sitting in an audience and someone is giving you lots of information in the forms of charts and graphs, or even just in general, don’t accept that just because it is in front of you on the screen or whiteboard that it really has to be true. Do your research before making decisions. Check everything out and then sign on the dotted line.
Presentations are mostly just sales pitches after all.
Sharren L Bessant
On the subject of graphs and pictures – everything you say about visual imagery makes sense. Its what I remember most. But then I thought of newspapers. They are full of text and few pictures. And novels are packed with text and often no visual imagery at all. So if we remember words in newspapers and books, maybe they do have a place on PowerPoint as well?