The story that’s been circulating for the last couple of days is from the New York Times about General James Mattis saying that “PowerPoint makes us stupid”. As someone who deals a lot with presenters, I have to say that I, very respectfully, sir, disagree.
Simply using a PowerPoint doesn’t make us stupid, but it does run the risk of making presenters boring and making audiences complacent. How many times have you been attending a web conference and you find yourself staring off into space or working on something else because you’re busy and you can “always look at the presentation slides later.”
It’s because a lot of presenters “abuse the power” of the PowerPoint. When you attend a conference or view a webinar, you often come up against the fact that speakers are reading off the slides. Just because you put your sentences into short bullet points doesn’t mean you’re not breaking one of the cardinal rules of presenting. PowerPoint presentations should be used as a guide, never as the meat of your presentation – that should be you.
With that being said, let’s talk about some of the other important things to keep in mind when putting together a presentation for a group.
Pictures should enhance a story, not tell it. I think the biggest “what were they thinking” moment comes from the presentation slide that’s been circulating the internet. Who can read that? It says nothing. If you’re relying on your slides to tell the story, you’re going to lose your audience almost instantly. It’s better to use them to support a story that you tell.
Not all subjects need slide presentations. Sure, the US Military has a lot of ground to cover and probably a short amount of time to do it in, but the everyday company doesn’t always need to have a presentation. There are some subjects that can be fully discussed just with a conference call. If you over saturate your audience with slides, they simply won’t mean anything anymore. For more presentation tips and tricks, check out some of my previous posts.
Presentations, like most things in the US, are all about the balance of power – when to use them, when to not, and how to use them in the right way. How do you determine when to use a presentation and when not to?