Public speaking has always been the fine art of well written words driven by personality, charm and eloquence. PowerPoint presentations changed all that. It took the art of public speaking and turned it into a multi-sensory approach. PowerPoint is a great software application that can add color and vibrancy to a presentation. Many speakers, however, forget that PowerPoint is only a tool. They find themselves engulfed by it. Others use it is a crutch.
We have all likely been subjected to a bad PowerPoint presentation. The speaker just read the slides and occasionally threw in some comments. It probably put you to sleep--if you even remember. The key to a Great PowerPoint presentation is this: You are giving the presentation, not PowerPoint. PowerPoint is a tool, not a crutch.
All the normal rules of public speaking still apply:
- Read your audience's body language and respond accordingly.
- Pay attention to your own body language.
- Exude your natural energy, confidence and enthusiasm.
- Make eye contact with your audience and engage.
Your slides should be nominated for supporting actor, but you should always take home the Oscar for the lead role.
PowerPoint has a lot of great features and fun special effects. Videos, graphs, sound bytes, and transitions are infinitely tempting. However, many times it just makes the speaker look like they graduated from Microsoft University. Special effects can be fun, but know when they are appropriate. Do not use them unless they really enhance your message. When misused, special effects and extra features distract your audience. They will come away more impressed with PowerPoint than with you or your topic. At worst, they will think you are covering for a lack of information.
Which begs the question: are you? Put less effort into creating a great visual aid, and spend more energy creating a great speech. Research is important, but don't stop there. Make it interesting. Bring home the points, engage the audience. Have more than numbers and statistics. Use material that speaks to them. Make them care, make them laugh, make them impressed--with your material.
Many PowerPoint presentations bombard the audience with sensory images. Give your audience a break. It is perfectly acceptable to have a blank screen if you need it. Just let your audience listen to you and internalize your message. It will make your presentation a little more about your message and less about Microsoft PowerPoint.