Picture this…. You’re sitting in an audience waiting to hear a presentation titled: The 5 Best Ways to Save for Retirement. Aka: How to Make Sure Your Money Lasts as Long as You Do! Like the rest of the people around you, you’re excited to learn some great savings and investment tips from the respected financial expert who’s about to take the stage. If all goes well, he might even share a bonus tax tip—or two!
The presentation begins and the speaker hits the ground running. You’re trying to pay attention, but after several minutes you realize you’ve zoned out. You try to focus on what he’s talking about so you can get back on track, and then he skips over three slides. “Don’t worry about those slides,” he says, “We aren’t talking about that today.” You’re completely lost now. He’s 15 minutes into a 45 minute presentation and he hasn’t given you one tip or idea worth making note of. When you look around, other people are poised to take notes too, but none of them are writing either. At 30 minutes he finally starts sharing some tips, but now his slides are complicated and he’s explaining them as if he’s trying to impress you with his knowledge rather than to share it.
One of the questions I get asked all the time is: “Do I need to have a PowerPoint to go along with my speech before I can start speaking?” It’s a great question and I totally understand. We all want to look like professionals when we take the stage, and in today’s world, people tend to think that having a PowerPoint is evidence of professionalism. There might be some truth in that, but only to a point. People did speak to audiences before PowerPoint existed. If you go to TED.com it says: “In fact, a lot of our best TED and TEDx Talks have had no slides.”
But PowerPoint does exist. So instead of avoiding it, let’s just get better at using it to our advantage. An article on TheAccidentalComunicator.com states that the purpose of having a PowerPoint presentation “needs to be to make a great speech even better.” I’d like to add that your presentation begins with you, and that means working on your presentation first. When you’re confident that it delivers on what you’ve promised to your audience, then begin to build a PowerPoint that will compliment your speech. I’m sure the financial planner mentioned at the beginning wanted to do that, he just lost sight of the most important rule when it comes to using PowerPoint:
Always, always, customize your PowerPoint so that it
matches up with, and enhances your verbal presentation!
One size does not fit all. Your audiences are rarely exactly the same. Presentation time varies, and sometimes the focus of our presentation varies too. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a PowerPoint that was provided by the company you work for, or the PowerPoint you created to go along with your signature presentation. Anytime you make adjustments to your speech so that it’s more relevant to your next audience, remember to make the necessary adjustments to your PowerPoint too. If you don’t, the people in your audience are going to walk away unhappy… maybe even believing that you didn’t care enough about them to make the effort.
Yes, technology can be fun, and maybe even sexy. But it can’t engage your audience. Only you can do that.