There are three real reasons why people abuse PowerPoint, and have a tough time presenting. Fear, Time, and Blindness.
FEAR. Admit it, deep down, no-one loves to speak in front of an audience, or at least, very few do. So when it’s go time, we hide behind the podium, mumble into notes or speak to our slides more than the audience. We build slides in a safe, “this won’t get me into any trouble” manner. Just follow the template. Put those bullets on the slide. It’s like safe mode on your PC. It works, but it’s ugly. Can’t vary from the template. I’ll get in trouble.
TIME. No one has enough, and work expands or shrinks to fit the amount of time we have. So thinking about how we are going to communicate, persuade and convince our audience doesn’t get the time it deserves. Let’s say I have a 30 minute presentation in Chicago; I know I have two hours on the plane and two hours stuck at the airport. That’s four hours – plenty of time to put together a presentation. I’ll pull 5 slides from my last update. 2 slides from Dan’s deck. One from finance. 1 from Sally, and there was a great diagram from Marketing. Slap a quote in at the beginning, and I only have to put 3 new slides together. We’ve all done it. and we wonder why we have bad PowerPoint karma.
BLINDNESS. The sad fact is there aren’t that many great presenters out there, and the PowerPoint we see isn’t too good either. Unless we really look, it’s easier to find bad instead of good*. If we see a presentation god – someone who is charismatic, compelling, or persuasive – we might wish, but deep down we think, that’s a talent we could never have. This isn’t true. Everyone can become good on their feet. You may not get to the level of Barack Obama or Steve Jobs, but you can make some vast improvements. If you try, you might be surprised at how well you can do.
Gavin is a founding partner at fassforward consulting group. He blogs about PowerPoint, Presenting, Communication and Message Discipline at makeapowerfulpoint.com. You can follow him on twitter @powerfulpoint.