Making a Power(ful) Point

By Ben Stowe, CTS, “Sound & Lighting Guru”

Usually my articles are on something techy, and usually related to some specific piece of gear or best practice. I suppose this one doesn’t stray far from that, so let’s call it a close cousin.

Presentations come in lots of forms and serve lots of purposes. They can be a great way to communicate your brands offerings to prospective clients. A brief presentation to a group of wedding professionals or in a business networking group could greatly increase their understanding of your offerings, and help them to be better advocates for your brand.

It’s no secret that I give a lot of presentations, dozens annually, not only in the technical field, but also some motivational. I also spend a lot of time on the receiving end of training and presentations. Because technical presentations can be inherently boring, I am always looking for ways to make mine more entertaining and engaging. I analyzer other presenters and their material to try to extract some process I might adapt to improve my own.

Recently while on a flight I observed a woman a row ahead and across the aisle working on a presentation. She was laboriously going over her PowerPoint slides, quietly reading each one aloud to herself. All of the slides were a plain white background, and they were crammed full of text. It was like a train-wreck in the making. I didn’t want to look, but I couldn’t look away.

I watched in increasing amazement at her dedication to memorizing the text contained on each slide. I made two assumptions at that point. The first was that the presentation was important enough to warrant a plane ticket. The second was that her audience must be illiterate if she had to read the text to them verbatim. Then, I came to a conclusion. The text didn’t need to be there.

If the audience was illiterate, they couldn’t read it anyway, and if they were not, then there was no point in her memorizing it because they would just read it.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I don’t think that has ever been more true than when giving a presentation. If you are there to present, then let the audience hear you. Know the material. Tell the story. Support the story with simple slides. The less text the better. My presentations are always a work in progress, but my goal is to eliminate virtually all text from my presentations.

Some text remains in my slides, usually a specific quote or reference, but rarely ever more than a sentence or two. If you find that you have paragraph after paragraph in your slides, ask yourself what the point of you being there is. Are you merely a “clicker jockey,” or are you a presenter?