Dire State of Presentation Skills


In 2009 Young Markets has been running a survey on the way people give presentations. Given all the publicity and material available on the internet about how to give an Effective presentation,  the message doesn’t appear to be getting through.

An astounding 73% of people rely on their slides to remind them what to say next with 83% revealing a whole side of bullet points at one time.

The vast majority of people are still using their slides as handouts, either before or after their talk.

With presentations techniques such as these being so common it is no wonder that the vast majority of audiences suffer from “death by PowerPoint” and that presentations are boring people to death.

If you are one of the majority of people who rely on your bullet point slides during a presentation, you are probably thinking what is so wrong with that. After all, it is what most people do. I’ll let you in to a secret; that is exactly what I used to do as well. But now I have seen the error of my ways, I now realise how boring it makes it for your audience.

I am not one of the anti-PowerPoint brigade or even anti-Prezi  who believes you should give a presentation without any slides. I believe that slides add value to a presentation and can help to make a presentation memorable and motivational, but only if they are used in the right way.

So what is so bad about relying on your slides to remind you of the key points, what is so bad about having a number of bullet points on the screen and what is so bad about using copies of your slides as handouts?

Essentially, it all boils down to one thing. Using slides in this way will let your audience get ahead of you. The slides will tell them what you are going to talk about next.  And as everyone knows there is no point listening to someone when you already know what they are about to say.

Speaker notes, visual aids and handouts are three completely separate things with completely different objectives. Your speaker notes are to remind you what to say. Your visual aids should be designed to accompany your words and create strong mental images for people to remember.  And your  handouts need to be stand alone documents  that cover not just the slides but what you said as well. By planning to use the slides as speaker notes you tell the audience what you are about to say. By using the slides as handouts you tend to overfill the slides so they still make complete sense even without your words. Both of these things will ruin a presentation.

Most of the time, the bullet points on a slide make excellent speaker notes, so use them as that and think up new visuals for the slides that you will share with your audience. The write down your talk and put it along side the slides in a PDF document which you can have as a handout, to give to people after your presentation.

If you are confronted with a pre-written corporate presentation that you have to use, which has lots of bullet points in it, then my advice is to use bullet point reveal facilities of the presentation software to display the bullets one at a time, and then talk about each topic and bring the bullet point up after you have talked about it. This has the affect of reinforcing what you have just said, rather than pre-announcing it and making your words superfluous.

Just because the majority of other people do it, doesn’t make it right. Stop, relying on your slides, stop displaying bullet point text and stop giving copies of your slides as handouts. Your audiences will thank you for it.

To find out more about how to structure and give an Effective Business Presentation visit my presentation training website  or book a place on one of my presentation courses.

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2 Responses to Dire State of Presentation Skills

  1. I couldn’t agree with your article more.

    Something I have found to be useful if you find your presentation becoming littered with ‘crutch like’ bullet points is to take all of them out, place them in the notes section, trim them down, and if you need to, use the “Presenter Mode” in MS PowerPoint, you’ll have the notes on your screen and the presentation for the audience. Placing a handful or even one evocative image on screen to talk around, has enormous power, being tremendously compelling to the audience. I know this because like you I used to have slides that had bullets aplenty, and it just didn’t work. We live and learn.

    • youngmarkets says:

      Varik,

      I like the idea of putting the bullets in the speaker notes and using “Presenter Mode” the only problem I have, these days, is that I now need reading glasses to read the notes because I cannot find a away of changing the size of the font in the speaker notes. Even on 2007 version the font menu doesn’t seem to do anything.

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