10 Steps to Avoid PowerPoint Becoming a Deadly Virus

Over the past decade it has become easier and easier to be an outstanding speaker because as a result of PowerPoint the standards of speaking in business have declined to the point where the average presentation is mediocre at best but often boring drivel.

Computer generated slides, there is no way to describe them as graphics, have destroyed speaking skills. The combination of too little time and the apparent ease of producing a PowerPoint presentation means that most speeches have become narrated slide shows with the screen centre stage and the presenter off to the side.

Whenever anyone is asked to "Do a Presentation" out comes the laptop, often the day before the speech, and slide after slide is filled with "bullets" or the odd "quote" or scanned image in 10 point type. These are the speaker's notes or in many cases the actual script because they read it out to the audience. 

Five minutes before the end the presenter realises that 60 slides in 30 minutes was over ambitious and so tabs hurriedly though the 40 surplus slides to the closing slide. This unprofessional exercise was totally pointless because the audience was already comatose anyway.

At the end of the speech a colleague will then approach the presenter and ask for a copy of the presentation which they import into their laptop making a few additions and subtractions and the virus spreads. Of course half way through their presentation at least one slide will appear that is totally meaningless leaving the presenter at a complete loss for words. 

Is this being cynical? Oh how I wish it was. However it is great news for you. Follow a few simple rules and even if you are still wedded to PowerPoint you can at least become a competent speaker. Be warned though. Even top professional speakers have wrecked an otherwise great speech when they were persuaded to "get modern" and use PowerPoint.

10 Steps to Avoid Ruining a Great Speech with PowerPoint.

  1. Make time to write the speech before you create your PowerPoint presentation. If you don't have time to write a good speech, you are wasting your time speaking. 
  2. What is the purpose of the speech? Decide what your message is. One message – the audience can't remember more than that. If they only remember one thing you said, what is it?
  3. Make no more than three points to support your message and use stories and interesting facts to illustrate them.
  4. Decide on your call to action which should be linked to the key message. If the audience only do one thing as a result of the speech, what is it?
  5. Look at your speech and decide where a PowerPoint slide will help. If it won't help don't use one. Use as few slides as possible and think of slides as graphics. Text is not graphics; your notes should be on the lectern not the screen.
  6. Learn how to make the most of PowerPoint. Make your presentations look professional but remember it is "Audio Visual Support" for the main event – Your Speech.
  7. If possible, position the projector and screen off to one side. You are the Star - the slides are the side show. 
  8. Remember these two essential PowerPoint Tips. a) Press the "B" key and the screen goes "Black." Press any key and the last slide re-appears. When you have finished with a slide "Black" the screen till you need the next slide. b) Enter the "Number" of a slide then "Enter" – to jump to that slide. If you run out of time jump to your closing slide and a finish.
  9. If it's complex or technical create useful handout notes or diagrams as well as the slide. You can use the PowerPoint slide to talk through the handout. But remember you are creating audio visual tools to help you communicate your speech. 
  10. Practice, practice, practice. Run though the presentation and make sure it works with your speech and in time. If a slide seems redundant it probably is. Cut rather than add. You do not need a slide for everything you say – you need a slide only to help communicate what you say. 

Copyright 2005 Richelle (Rikki) Arundel, UK . About the Author: Founder and First President of the Professional Speakers Association, Rikki Arundel is an International Keynote Speaker, Trainer and Writer and an expert in sales and marketing communications with an impressive track record. She is also proudly and openly transgender which has given her a unique understanding of the differences in the way men and women communicate in business.