How to Avoid ‘Death by PowerPoint’

December 15, 2017

There’s nothing worse than a dry, complicated PowerPoint presentation that can’t hold your audience’s attention. Tim Pollard, CEO of communications consulting firm Oratium, has tips for making your message stick, whether you’re speaking at a conference, doing an in-office training, or presenting in front of your team.

First, ditch the text-filled, complex slides. If you use PowerPoint or another presentation software, the slides should communicate the basic underlying idea you’re trying to get across. “Science shows that the brain is wired to process ideas. It does not, however, traffic well at the level of facts and data,” Pollard says.

Stick to this framework:

  1. Clarify your ideas. “The best communications powerfully land a small number of big ideas. We saw Steve Jobs do so masterfully. We’ve seen it in every TED talk,” Pollard says. “Ask yourself: What outcome are you seeking and what argument will lead to that outcome? Therein lies your ideas.”
  2. Orient your communication around these ideas. While facts and data are still important, Pollard says they should illustrate or support the main idea or theory. The ideas are the stars and the data is the supporting cast, he says, so create a narrative in your talk that logically links one idea to the next.
  3. Simplify. A flood of facts and figures can overwhelm even the sharpest mind, making it difficult to absorb the information, Pollard says. “To respect this, you’ll need to aggressively simplify, reducing both quantity and complexity.”
  4. Rehearse without slides. Don’t let your slides become crutches; it helps to focus on the idea-driven narrative mentioned above. Practicing without slides helps solidify that you know what you’re talking about, and the message comes across naturally, Pollard says.

Source: “Want to Make Your Message Stick? Ditch PowerPoint,” December 2017, Association Media & Publishing.