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Six Major Mistakes When Doing Powerpoint Presentations

Six Major Mistakes When Doing Powerpoint Presentations

powerpoint slide presentations

    One of the editors here at Lifehack, Chris Smith, frequently writes about technology. As I was reading some of his recent articles, I was influenced to write a tech article of my own, so here it is.

    So, you are sitting in a company meeting and the presenter puts up the first slide. You are probably thinking to yourself,

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    “Oh no, not another Powerpoint presentation – BORING!”

    Unfortunately, most people who use Powerpoint, Keynote or other similar software for making slide presentations completely abuse the technology. Instead of using these programs to enhance their presentations, they end up putting their audiences to sleep instead.

    I’ve been guilty of abusing this technology myself when I first started using Powerpoint as a product marketing manager. Originally, the intent was to replace the use of cumbersome overhead slides and when I realized just how easy it was to create new slides with a computer program, like everybody else, I just went crazy with it.

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    I’m still using Powerpoint these days in my talks and seminars but fortunately after seeing many others make the same mistakes that I did with their presentations, I took it upon myself to get some training on how to best use this tool. To help you out with your own presentations, I have identified six major mistakes that most Powerpoint users make and how you can avoid them.

    1 – Text Too Small

    Quite often, the text used on slides is much too small to read once projected on a screen. A good test to use is go to the back of the room where the furthest audience member would be sitting before you do your presentation.  Put on the slide with the smallest sized text. If you can’t make out the text easily, then neither will any audience member sitting in the back of the room. You will have to make your text size larger (I would suggest at least 35-40 font size minimum). Also, it is a good idea to use sans-serif fonts like Arial (rather than serif fonts like Times Roman) on slides since they are easier on the eyes on a screen.

    2 – Too Much Text

    Another major mistake that many people make is trying to fit in too much text on any single slide. It is a nightmare for audiences when they see a slide jammed full of text. If audience members start reading all the text on such a slide, they will not be able to listen to you as the speaker at the same time. A good rule of thumb to use is have no more than four to five bullet points per slide (I often use just three points) and no more than five words per point. If you have more bullet points, divide them up on separate slides.

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    3 – Reading Off Each Word

    A sure sign of an ineffective presenter is when he or she looks at the screen and reads off every last word up on the slides. From a presentation skills point of view, this is bad because the presenter loses eye contact with the audience. You also don’t want the audience to have to look at your backside all the time. Again, limit the number of words on each bullet point so that you can speak more naturally by expanding on what is actually on each slide.

    4 – Abusing The Bells And Whistles

    Another indicator of an inexperienced Powerpoint user is when too many of the fancy functions from the program are used in the presentation. This would include the use of too many different slide transitions, animations, sound effects, etc. You are not there to impress the audience with your vast knowledge of the different bells and whistles that Powerpoint has. These can get rather tiring on the audience. Keep things simple and remember that the slides are there to enhance your verbal presentation, not the other way around.

    5 – Ineffective Use Of Images

    It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words and images can definitely enhance your presentation. The key is to use them to illustrate major points you are making. Don’t have too many images on any single slide. I usually use just one image per slide. Make sure the image is good enough quality by testing it out on a wall or screen first. Sometimes images that look fine on your computer monitor may end up looking bad when blown up on a wall. Also, make sure any images you use are relevant to the points you are making during your presentation. Don’t just put up images for the sake of having pictures up there. There must be some obvious connection between the images you use and the points you are trying to make.

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    6 – Not Having Backups

    Technology is technology. This means that it can fail when least expected. I’ve had to resort to using somebody else’s laptop when my own failed. It was a good thing that I had a backup copy of my Powerpoint file on a flash drive. From a speaker point of view, it is also a good idea to be able to deliver your presentation without the slides just in case of projector failure. I often bring some props to use in case I have to do a sudden version of my talk without slides and yes, I have had to do this in one or two cases.

    So there you have it. If you can avoid just these six major mistakes that many presenters make out there, the effectiveness of your presentations will be increased dramatically. After you have created them, rehearse your presentations in advance with the slides, as your efforts will make you appear to be a more professional presenter in front of audiences.

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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