It’s hard to think of anyone who doesn’t use Powerpoint or some sort of visual during a presentation today. Indeed, today’s audiences expect us to use every available bit of technology when addressing them! Unfortunately, tools such as Powerpoint are frequently misused: rather than being a support for your message, Powerpoint can become the message itself…or worse. Powerpoint slides can be counterproductive, particular if the attention of your audience is drawn to an overly-wordy slide or a series of slides at variance with your words.
So how to ensure it is you who is the star of the show, not your Powerpoint? Here are some fool-proof guidelines.
Keep Control of the Narrative
The power of your narrative is in the titles of your slides. Each slide should have a title that is easy to read and understand, which summarizes the content of the slide, to ensure the steady progress of your message. For example, instead of “Geographical Distribution” as a title to illustrate where your company sees its best growth prospects, get right to the point with “Our Growth is in Emerging Markets,” or “Our Strategy is to Acquire Companies in Asia.” Follow with statistics and other explanations to support the headline (that is, don’t start with statistics). Think to yourself, “If the only thing the audience had to go by is the titles on my slides, would my narrative still be clear?”
The Slide Should Enhance Your Message
If “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then think of the slide as the thousand words you won’t have time to say — a supportive addition to your words. Slides themselves shouldn’t be crammed with words: as we humans read faster than we listen, the audience could end up reading the slide rather than listening to what you’re saying, which can gratuitously confuse your message. Remember that any information or numbers in your slides should be there to prove and support the point you are making verbally; you should not be struggling to explain the numbers on your slide (thus potentially giving the numbers — and the slide — an undeserved prominence in your message). And finally, avoid “sitting” on a slide too long: two minutes is almost too long; one minute is better.
Create a Rhythm
The audience will retain more of your message if you are selective about using slides. Avoid a steady stream of visual information. Alternating between slides and just you, speaking creates a rhythm that will enhance the overall impact of your message and presentation and also give the audience a chance to focus on you individually. That doesn’t mean standing in front of an audience with a blank screen behind you; instead, be sure you have a “holding slide” — perhaps the company logo or the title of your presentation — to keep the audience focused subliminally on the topic.
Remember, Powerpoint is there to support you and your message, not to wrest control or become the message itself. You are the principal actor, not your slides. So keep control, watch that rhythm…and go for it!
Editor’s Note: This Article originally appeared on Forbes and is featured here with Author permission.