A new litmus test for your PowerPoint presentation.
I have very strong feelings about the use of PowerPoint. In my estimation 99.5% of all PowerPoint presentations absolutely blow.
I mean they are horrible. Tragic. Embarrassing. But goody for you, based on my 25 years experience as a professional presenter and motivational speaker, I have a couple of tips to ensure you are in that tiny percentage of presenters who can create an interesting, relevant, and fun PowerPoint.
The two things you need to know about PowerPoint are One: you have too many words; and Two: you have too many slides.
First, when I say too many words, I don’t mean just a couple of extra words. I mean you need to erase nearly every word you have. Most of my slides have a maximum of three words on them. A short phrase, a single word. Often my slides have no words; only a picture.
Slides with minimal words can use a very large font which sets your presentation apart. Who likes to try to read tiny type covering the entire page, especially if you forgot your reading glasses. Come on, people! A lot of us are getting more far-sighted everyday.
More importantly, slides with few words let your audience know where you are in your presentation. They are like punctuation. A placeholder. The headline. You still have your bullet points in your details. On your podium! You are the one who delivers them. Not your computer. If your slides are so detailed that people could read them like an essay in lieu of listening to your presentation, then you’re completely missing the point of the slides. The audience is supposed to be LISTENING! Not READING!
The same holds true for the number of slides you have in presentation. It’s like packing for a trip. Prepare your slides, then decrease the amount by perhaps 80%. In my 90 minute motivational keynote I have fewer than 20 slides.
Remember, your audience is there to see YOU. Not your “presentation.” Yes they want you to have valuable content and ideas. But let’s face it— if they wanted JUST the information, they can either buy the book or read an article. Or — heaven forbid — borrow your PowerPoint presentation.
So here’s the bottom line: erase almost all of your words and almost all of your slides. Talk more and click that power point remote less.
Of course, with every awesome rule there is an exception. To see if any one slide can meet the exception I’ve come up with a litmus test.
I just did a motivational speech for a group of insurance executives in Georgia, and then a similar speech again for some business people in Denver. After both keynotes I had people come up afterwards and ask for a copy of a particular slide. In both cases it was multiple people asking for the same slide.
The slide is of my Manifesto, and has about 30 words on it. (So as you can see I didn’t just break my rule about very few words per slide; I shattered it.) The fact that people are begging for, not a copy of my entire PowerPoint presentation, but for a copy of that particular slide tells me that this slide is compelling, interesting, and provides value. So now I have a new test for any exception to my very-few-words-per-slide rule.
If I’m going to have lots of words on any particular PowerPoint slide, it needs to have lots of value. So much value that people specifically request a copy. In other words, if you have a Title slide with five Bullets…and nobody cares, comments or notices … That slide sucks.
PowerPoint is an excellent tool for presenters. It can add value and meaning to your speeches, and if you use it right it can even deliver punchlines. So don’t dismiss it. What you need to do is to rethink its content. Totally. Now. Start deleting. Your presentation will be better, your slides will be more interesting, and your audiences will be thrilled.
If you are looking for a motivational speaker with a unique use of PowerPoint then I hope you’ll give me a call. Or even better, if you just need a business speaker who has a unique way of delivering his message, uses PowerPoint, sound effects, music, and a crazy amount of audience interaction, then I definitely hope you’ll call us.
(If you’re looking for more ways to improve your presentation skills, including some cool stuff about how to be funny, you can check out our store.)
What are your best PowerPoint Tips? What do YOU think? (Leave a comment!)