Back away from the BFA

You hear that voice in your head? The one saying, “If you don’t put every bit of information up on your slides, the audience isn’t going to understand or buy off on this idea. Plus, you need to prove you’ve comprehensively covered all your bases.”

With PowerPoint, we all feel the need to put all the relevant bullets, quotes, facts, figures and charts on every slide to make our point. The problem with this approach is that we are doing nothing to help the audience navigate through all that clutter.

To curb this PowerPoint abuse, highlight the key point within each slide. By saying “the,” I mean one point at a time.

I revealed this same advice to members of a large sales organization recently. Immediately, I heard one participant shout, “We do that! We use the BFA!”

We hear lots of client jargon on the road, but this was a new term. When asked for clarification, members of the class eagerly explained that BFA stands for Big Flipping Arrow. (Let’s be honest; flipping was not the word they used.) It’s a big, red arrow pointed directly at the excel spreadsheet cell the presenter wants you to focus on. Using the BFA was part of their company culture and an acceptable addition to slides they used for presentations and webinars.

However, the sales team admitted that the BFA wasn’t all that effective. A red arrow, no matter how big, wasn’t enough to keep listeners focused when all the rest of the information was still right there, waiting to be devoured. In fact, it was just one more element that distracted the attention of the audience. It was one more visual the presenter had to compete with for everyone’s attention.

The moral of the story? You don’t need to put all the information on one slide. And you definitely don’t need the BFA to keep listeners focused. By highlighting just one key idea per slide, you effectively guide your listeners through the most important points. Suddenly, you have their focus and attention where you want it, and the ability to move from a position of information to one of influence and persuasion.

Not sure how the audience will do without all that extra data and those charts that aren’t part of your visual slides? Worried that the group will be expecting more statistical proof? Set expectations for your presentation by letting the audience know you’ll provide the backup information separately and leave supporting information for the appendix.

Back away from the BFA and pull out the key points for visual support while you’re speaking. Have you ever used the BFA or another attention tactic? What do you do to effectively use PowerPoint? Please share your own ideas!

4 comments on “Back away from the BFA

  1. Here, Here, PowerPoint is not the problem. Moreover, often it is a great solution. If you really want to break bad habits, forget the standard templates and designs. Start with a blank white background. Think of it as a whiteboard, and map out what you want to say. There’s no rule that says PowerPoint has to look like PowerPoint. Isn’t it more refreshing and appealing to the audience when it doesn’t?

  2. Thanks for the comment, Michael. We agree! Using quick-hitting, visuals makes a more memorable impact than loading each slide with content. PowerPoint is an incredible tool when used correctly and effectively and just where you really need the visual support to explain an idea.

  3. I wish people would stop using powerpoint all together, or at least stop putting things on powerpoint that they are already saying. A picture or illustration is always much better visually than a list of bullet points. If you put the bullet points on Powerpoint, then don’t bother saying it, and if you say it, it doesn’t need to be on powerpoint.