You Are Your Presentation

It happened again. Another case of PowerPoint abuse. This time the offender was House Speaker Paul Ryan—and we’re just waiting for an SNL skit on this one.

ICYMI: Last week, he held a press conference to explain the newly proposed healthcare plan—a massively debated issue. And he used a PowerPoint deck to outline his presentation. And yes, his slides had too much text. And yes, his graphics were amateurish at best. But that’s not what caused the internet to roast him post-speech. The worst part was that he listed his points bullet-by-bullet and narrated them. It reminded me of some of my most boring college professors—it was painful to watch! That’s PowerPoint abuse. Unless you were required to watch the entire 34-minute speech, my guess is, you clicked away and read about it later.

We have to remember that we are the presentation, not our slides. PowerPoint (or whatever slide ware you’re using) is just a visual aid. We get into a rut and we feel like we have to include everything we say onto each slide. Using slides as a crutch like this is a mistake countless people make. The problem is, when we do that, the default becomes informing and we miss the opportunity to influence and inspire. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When you do use PowerPoint, here are 5 tips for avoiding PowerPoint abuse:

  1. Use Black Slides to eliminate distractions.
  2. Keep it to one idea per slide—that’ll help with slide overload.
  3. Use descriptive titles on your slides.
  4. Use the Decker Grid™ to keep your message audience-centered and action-orientated. Have a POV—what do you want your audience to do about the information you share?
  5. Use pictures, graphics and images instead of bulleted sentences to trigger emotion in a way that gets people to feel something. Bonus: these SHARPs will be memorable! In fact, one bright spot of Paul Ryan’s presentation came around the 16:20 mark. He shared a personal story about the rising costs of tonsil removal for his three kids. It was something I could relate to—Ben and my youngest son just had his tonsils removed last year. It’s one of the only truly captivating moments of the entire speech (thanks camera man, for zooming in).

So, in your next presentation, avoid PowerPoint abuse! If you do, no one will call you a professor, I promise.

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