It happens so now and then that, just when you want to start your presentation, a message shows up on the screen behind you that urges you to replace the projector lamp… Luckily for me, the last time this happened, there was an A/V technician around who fixed the problem in a matter of minutes, and I could deliver my talk as planned.
This incident, however, made me reflect about why we –business presenters and public speakers– are actually so addicted to slideware, and why some of us seem to be completely helpless without Powerpoint, Keynote or Prezi.
Surely we’re all part of a visual culture. In our daily lives we are bombarded with a plethora of (static and moving) images offered by billboards, magazines, TV, social media and web pages that “help” us better ingest, digest, and retain information. Illustrations can make things more clear, more visible or more manifest. Children’s books are often illustrated with colorful pictures. The illustrations are as much a part of the experience with the content as the written text.
Other presenters use slides because they have a bad memory –at least that’s the excuse they come up with for not spending enough time on preparation and rehearsal– or want to add a level of detail to their story that is too complex for oral transmission. Data visualizations and infographics are good examples of how pictures may add value to words. But always beware of texty slides and bulleted lists!
Next time I enter the stage, I might just ignore the projector (even when the lamp is not broken) and start presenting “naked”… Stay tuned for a testimonial about the joy of naked presenting in a next blog post!
More reading about visual thinking and slide design:
“De gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum” is a Latin expression that translates as “it’s no use debating taste and colors.” A good presentation is like a tasty dish and it requires the right skills —as well as a cook with ample personality and passion— to prepare. I know that not everybody is a three-star chef, but this doesn’t mean that you have to serve mediocre junk food to your audience. Anyone can acquire, adopt and apply some basic kitchen techniques. Read my words. Taste and colors DO matter. And so do the look and feel of your presentations.
Check out the visual below. Doesn’t it look a bit tedious, ugly and tasteless?
Fonts: do you really want to mix that many typefaces on one single slide?
Colors: are you sure that people in the back of the room can read the pink emphasized words?
Bullets: will you be able to present the slide without reading out the entire text?
Background: this looks like a stock PowerPoint template. Boring, isn’t it?
Images: are these the best or most original pictures you could get?
Multimedia: not visible on the static image above, but imagine the clip art animated and the bullets flying in from left and right… (ugh!)
So, you’d better fetch your pots and pans, light your oven, and sharpen your kitchen knives! Because, in my next 6 posts, I am going to dig into the art of creating compelling visuals and give you some easy-to-follow do’s and don’ts for making your slides look more professional and yummy…
For an entertaining hands-on on how not to use PowerPoint, watch this video of stand-up comedian Don McMillan:
Other articles about this topic that are worth reading:
Sometimes (I am sure that my colleagues at work would even say often) crafting a business presentation is considered a last-minute job. And when there’s little time left for being creative yourself, it’s tempting to rely upon material that others have created before you. Nothing as easy as making a slide deck by cutting and pasting slides from existing PowerPoints into yours.
Should it be a surprise that 99% of these cut‘n’paste slideshows look like chameleons, that change colors, fonts and layout with every slide transition?
Read my words: look and feel do matter! If you want your audience to perceive you as a professional, then never compromise on the layout of your visuals.
Real estate: Don’t overdo. Beware of creating slideuments.Apply the same template to all slides.Use plenty of white space. Limit the amount of bulleted slides as well as bullets per page.
Colors should contrast with the background. Don’t put together too many colors on one screen. Avoid using red text on a white or black background. Use tools such as Shyam Pillai’s add-in to select and customize your PowerPoint color schemes.
Fonts must be readable from the back of the room. Be consistent in style throughout the whole deck. Don’t mix too many typefaces. Avoid script fonts. Bold and italic are good to emphasize text, underline isn’t.
Images are there to complement or emphasize your message. Don’t insert standard clip art that adds no extra value (we all know the man climbing a bar chart, don’t we?) Avoid mixing line art and photos.
Vocabulary: Consequently use the same terminology everywhere. Beware of acronyms and abbreviations. Don’t use jargon or slang.
So next time you need to build a business presentation, start well in advance and take your time to tune each slide. Don’t take existing material for granted. Be creative. Be consistent. Be professional.
And if you have some time left, take a look at the blog posts below: