“Beware of anyone who says that they're "just going to talk to some slides" - because that's exactly what they'll do - without realising that they're spending most of their time with their backs to the audience.” So says Max Atkinson, author of “Speech making and Presentations made easy”, in BBC news Magazine on 19th August.
How many of us have sat through Powerpoint presentations that are dull, wordy, and downright impossible to read? My pet hate is the diagrams, spreadsheets and charts that contain so much detail that they cannot even be read with a magnifying glass, let alone from 10 rows back in the conference hall. And the presenter probably apologises “You probably won’t be able to read this….” Why put it up there, then! Dare I say it, the NHS seems to take pride in that particular trait. There seems to be a mindset that the more information you can cram in, the more brownie points you will score – but in my experience, less is more!
The worst crime for a presenter is to spend their time looking at the screen, reading out what is there. NO! Please don’t do that! Slides should be no more than a prompt for the presenter – and if you need to give people detailed information, put it in a handout that the audience receive AT THE END. (Otherwise they will be looking at it while you are talking).
Guy Kawasaki, author of "Art of The Start" reckons that Powerpoint should follow a 10/20/30 Rule. There should be no more than 10 slides in the presentation -- very few people take away much more than one concept from a presentation, so all that other stuff is extra. The slide presentation should be designed to last 20 minutes, leaving room for ample questions/discussion between slides or after the presentation. Guy points out that the point of the presentation is typically to initiate a discussion. He says the font should be size should be no smaller than 30 (Arial font). Guy says that audiences read faster than you can talk, so that while you are up there talking, they are trying to read your slides and not listening to what you are saying.
This website has advice from high profile presenters, free templates and resources for presentations. KISS should be your watchword ( Keep It Simple, Stupid!) – forget the whizzy graphics, noises, and annoying gizmos. Use a picture to illustrate a point, a word (or a few). Surprise your audience with a video clip that makes a valid point.
Don’t let your presentation be something that you hide behind – a barrier between you and your audience. The most successful presenters are those who make eye contact with their audience, and talk passionately and knowledgeably about their subject.