Category Archives: PowerPoint

A Time for Slide Magic . . .

Especially Powerful
You provide the especially powerful magic, not the PowerPoint slides

Do you ever cobble together a half-dozen makeshift slides cut-and-pasted from a written report, larded with bullet points, and then rely on some sort of last-minute presentation magic to save your butt?

Wishful thinking that maybe PowerPoint pyrotechnics can save the day?

Perhaps the bravado of phony self-confidence to get you through a painful experience?

Guilty as charged?

Most of us are guilty at some point.

And the results can be heinous.

Software “Magic” Cannot Save You

The results are slides that confuse the audience rather than reinforce your major points delivered in awful, mind-numbing presentations.

You pay a price for serving up what designer Nancy Duarte calls “bad slides.”  Nancy says in her book Slideology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations:

“Making bad slides is easy, and it will negatively impact your career.  Invest in your slides, but invest in your own visual skills as well.  The alternative is to inadvertently commit career suicide.”

Absent specific instruction, you might believe that it’s acceptable to simply cut and paste graphics from a written report directly onto a slide.

And . . . why not?

Who says this is a bad idea?

After all, the professor wants to see certain material on the screen, doesn’t he?

Well, I’m giving it to him.  ’nuff said.

This is awful for the reason that the slide presentation sometimes doubles for a written document.  This is an incredibly stupid mistake, and with it you forfeit personal competitive advantage to your more careful peers.

One . . . or the Other

Your PowerPoint can serve admirably one or the other purpose . . . but not both.

Presentation Magic does not exist
You Create the Presentation Magic . . . not the Software

The presentation – or show – is an entirely different form of communication than the written document that is meant to be reviewed later.

Never let one serve in place of the other.

Prepare two separate documents if necessary.  One is your detailed written document, and the other to serve as the basis for your show.

When you commit the error of letting a written document serve as your public presentation, here’s what usually happens:  You project a parade of abominably cluttered slides onto the screen while you talk about them.  Usually prefacing what you say with the words “As you can see . . . .”  [this is called As You Can See Syndrome, or AYCSS]

The results are quite often poor, if not downright ugly and embarassing for all concerned.

It’s a roadmap to disaster.

But the insidious part is that no one tells you the results are disastrous.

And they do not tell you what makes your creation an abomination.

So let’s discuss the types of issues you face in assembling your show, so that you can craft an especially powerful presentation.

No Magic in Your Slide Deck

Start by recognizing that no slide show can substitute for a lack of ideas, a lack of preparation, and lack of a story to tell.

Nifty slides cannot save you.

There is no PowerPoint magic.

PowerPoint cannot rescue you with its colors, sound, and animation.

This is akin to Hollywood filmmakers who spend millions of dollars on dazzling special effects and neglect the story.  They bomb miserably.

Especially Powerful
An especially powerful story wins the day every time

On the other hand, Hollywood can caft a winning film with a superb story and drama, but with minimal special effects.

For example, see the classic Henry Fonda film 12 Angry Men.

You cannot craft a winning film with no story.

Or a bad story populated with people you don’t care about.

Forget the notion that slides are somehow the backbone of your show.  They have no special properties.  They can merely enhance your show . . . and they can most assuredly help destroy it.

Presentations coach Aileen Pincus makes this point in her 2008 book Presenting:

“Slides are not a magic pill; they won’t organize a disorganized presentation; they won’t give a point to a presentation that doesn’t really have one; and they never make a convincing presentation on their own.”

So is there a reasonably easy way to get around this busy-slide pathology?

Of course, and this leads us to one solution to the problem of overburdened slides.

Remember three words when you prepare your slides, and you can eliminate 90 percent of your PowerPoint pathologies.

Orient . . . Eliminate . . . Emphasize

Firstorient your audience to the overall financial context.

If you take information from a balance sheet or want to display company profit growth for a period of years, then display the sheet in its entirety to orient the audience.  Tell the audience they view a balance sheet.

Walk to the screen and point to the information categories.  Say “Here we have this number” . . . “Here we have this category.”

You provide the Presentation Magic
Great Speakers like Malcolm X bring their own Presentation Magic to performance . . . and so should you

Secondeliminate everything on the screen that you do not talk about.

If you do not refer to it, it should not appear on your slide.

Strip the visual down to the basic numbers and categories you use to make your point.

Thirdemphasize the important points by increasing the size, coloring them, or bolding the numbers.  You can illustrate the meaning of the numbers by utilizing a chart or graph.

When you orient, eliminate, and emphasize, you polish your meaning to a high sheen.  This puts you on your way to an especially powerful presentation that gives you Personal Competitive Advantage.

You dump distractors that leech the strength and from your presentation.

Consequently, by substraction you infuse your presentation with power.  You provide your own presentation magic that arises from your skill as an especially powerful presenter.

Want more on providing your own presentation magic?  Consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Pry My PowerPoint Slides from my Cold, Dead Hard-drive

Powerpoint slides
PowerPoint slides are meant for viewing, not distribution.

My PowerPoint slides are proprietary.

I spend lots of time on them.

They have a latticework of subtle animations and overtones that bulk out the size of the file, and I practice with them a great deal to make their presence an organic part of what the audience experiences.

It takes a long time to make slides unobtrusive, you know that, right?

You should.

All of which is why my own presentations may seem to carry a bit more heft than the norm.  And so should yours.

PowerPoint slides constitute my intellectual property.  Not the specific information contained on them, although some of the unorthodox ways I present it could be considered original.

No PowerPoint Slides for You!

The slides themselves are my IP, and often I must refuse well-meaning requests for a “copy of your slide deck” as if it’s just something I hand out to passersby.  Like shareware.

In fact, some folks actually expect to get a copy of my presentation’s slides, which indicates to me how far down that sorry road we have come . . . the presentation is just a formality, really just a formal group slide reading.

Why pay attention if you’ll get a copy anyway?

Uh . . . no.

I believe that this strange tradition of passing out copies of presentation slides just prior to a talk was launched because most presentations feature slides that are virtually unreadable on the screen.

They feature dense blocks of text that assault audience sensibilities.

Hence, the tail began wagging the dog, as unreadable slides required that hand-outs be supplied so that something could be intelligible.

This, of course, has led to mind-numbing presentations, where folks in the audience shuffle and rattle paper constantly as they “follow along.”

If your audience cannot “follow along” with your presentation, the solution is not slide hand-outs.  You have a big problem presenting, and the solution is presentation training.

Stop the Paper-Shuffle!

The slide presentation, ideally, should not be a review source for an audience.  Another document should be prepared for audience review and for take-home, a document that touches on the major points of the presentation and prepared in suitable format.

So when I receive requests for my slides from my shows on presentations, I point people in this direction.

This source has everything I talk about in my seminars . . . and more.  Much more.

More detail, more gravitas, more examples.

And it’s designed to be read at home to help you develop an especially powerful presentation.

No, you can’t have my PowerPoint slides . . . but you can have this.

How to Develop PowerPoint Skill

PowerPoint Skill
PowerPoint, done well, can be a Powerful Tool of Communication

Microsoft’s PowerPoint multimedia software has gotten a bum rap, and this unfair reputation springs from the thousands of ugly presentations given every day from folks who have not developed their PowerPoint skill.

It also stems from awful articles like this one, which appeared recently in something called Business Insider.

The article is so bad that I actually recommend that you read it to get the perspective of someone 1) who doesn’t know how to make a cogent argument, and 2) who obviously understands nothing about PowerPoint or how to use visual aids in delivering presentations.

His “argument” is akin to offering criticism of a bad high school football team as a reason to eliminate the NFL.  Moreover, his lead sentence is a textbook exercise in the straw man argument . . . such argument as exists at all.

PowerPoint is a brilliant tool.

Yes, brilliant.

But not for those such as the hapless fellow writing in Business Insider.

But just as any tool – say, a hammer or saw – can contribute to the construction of a masterpiece . . . or a monstrosity, PowerPoint can contribute to the creation of an especially powerful presentation.

And it can serve as a source of your own personal competitive advantage.

Or . . . it becomes the weapon of choice to inflict yet another heinous public-speaking crime on a numbed audience.

PowerPoint Skill a Necessity

PowerPoint isn’t the problem.  Clueless presenters are the problem.

So just how do you use PowerPoint?

You can start by consulting any of several PowerPoint experts who earn their living sharpening their own skills and helping others to hone theirs.

Folks such as Nancy Duarte, who has elevated PowerPoint design to a fine art.  You can subscribe to her newsletter here by scrolling to the page bottom and signing up.  You can also enjoy her supremely interesting blog here.  She’s done all the heavy lifting already – now you can take advantage of it to develop your PowerPoint slide skills.

Garr Reynolds is another giant of the PowerPoint kingdom, and his concepts approach high art without being too artsy.

Meanwhile, if you want immediate help to develop not only your PowerPoint slide skills, but also your technique of working with your presentation projection, do have a look at my own short video on how to work with PowerPoint.

It’s enough to get you started and, I hope, whet your appetite for more instruction in PowerPoint skill.

For once you create those marvelous slides inspired by Nancy and Garr . . . you then must use them properly in a ballet of visual performance art called a business presentation.

This short video reviews several of my own techniques that provide basic guidance on how to work with PowerPoint.

Have a look-see and start building competitive advantage today . . .