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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 December 2, 2018

    7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

    7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

    When giving a presentation or speech, you have to engage your audience effectively in order to truly get your point across. Unlike a written editorial or newsletter, your speech is fleeting; once you’ve said everything you set out to say, you don’t get a second chance to have your voice heard in that specific arena.

    You need to make sure your audience hangs on to every word you say, from your introduction to your wrap-up. You can do so by:

    1. Connecting them with each other

    Picture your typical rock concert. What’s the first thing the singer says to the crowd after jumping out on stage? “Hello (insert city name here)!” Just acknowledging that he’s coherent enough to know where he is is enough for the audience to go wild and get into the show.

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    It makes each individual feel as if they’re a part of something bigger. The same goes for any public speaking event. When an audience hears, “You’re all here because you care deeply about wildlife preservation,” it gives them a sense that they’re not just there to listen, but they’re there to connect with the like-minded people all around them.

    2. Connect with their emotions

    Speakers always try to get their audience emotionally involved in whatever topic they’re discussing. There are a variety of ways in which to do this, such as using statistics, stories, pictures or videos that really show the importance of the topic at hand.

    For example, showing pictures of the aftermath of an accident related to drunk driving will certainly send a specific message to an audience of teenagers and young adults. While doing so might be emotionally nerve-racking to the crowd, it may be necessary to get your point across and engage them fully.

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    3. Keep going back to the beginning

    Revisit your theme throughout your presentation. Although you should give your audience the credit they deserve and know that they can follow along, linking back to your initial thesis can act as a subconscious reminder of why what you’re currently telling them is important.

    On the other hand, if you simply mention your theme or the point of your speech at the beginning and never mention it again, it gives your audience the impression that it’s not really that important.

    4. Link to your audience’s motivation

    After you’ve acknowledged your audience’s common interests in being present, discuss their motivation for being there. Be specific. Using the previous example, if your audience clearly cares about wildlife preservation, discuss what can be done to help save endangered species’ from extinction.

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    Don’t just give them cold, hard facts; use the facts to make a point that they can use to better themselves or the world in some way.

    5. Entertain them

    While not all speeches or presentations are meant to be entertaining in a comedic way, audiences will become thoroughly engaged in anecdotes that relate to the overall theme of the speech. We discussed appealing to emotions, and that’s exactly what a speaker sets out to do when he tells a story from his past or that of a well-known historical figure.

    Speakers usually tell more than one story in order to show that the first one they told isn’t simply an anomaly, and that whatever outcome they’re attempting to prove will consistently reoccur, given certain circumstances.

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    6. Appeal to loyalty

    Just like the musician mentioning the town he’s playing in will get the audience ready to rock, speakers need to appeal to their audience’s loyalty to their country, company, product or cause. Show them how important it is that they’re present and listening to your speech by making your words hit home to each individual.

    In doing so, the members of your audience will feel as if you’re speaking directly to them while you’re addressing the entire crowd.

    7. Tell them the benefits of the presentation

    Early on in your presentation, you should tell your audience exactly what they’ll learn, and exactly how they’ll learn it. Don’t expect them to listen if they don’t have clear-cut information to listen for. On the other hand, if they know what to listen for, they’ll be more apt to stay engaged throughout your entire presentation so they don’t miss anything.

    Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com

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