But PowerPoints are NOT Your Presentation

With all the recent emphasis on the design of your PowerPoints (Keynote for the Mac), it’s time to revisit the fact that your visuals are NOT your presentation. You and your Point of View are the centerpiece. I think that the emphasis on PowerPoints (we’ll call them PP for brevity) is because 2008 WAS a great year for great design with the publication of Garr Reynolds’ book “Presentation Zen” and Nancy Duarte’s “slide:ology” (both still best sellers on Amazon.) Make no mistake that having powerful and visual support materials is critical to your impact. But it’s still your impact – it’s not a PP.

Keep in mind that we’re talking here about in-person presentations, not PP ‘decks’ that are designed to be used as a written report. Also, many major conferences think ‘decks’ when they ask their speakers to send in their PowerPoints in advance. Why? They are NOT their presentation! (This just happened to me, and I did it because the client IS the client. But it misses the point of the experience.)

Unfortunately we find that in about 95% of the cases for most speakers in business today their PP’s are the centerpiece of their message. They create their content around their PP’s, rather than figuring out what they want to say, and then using PP’s, (and videos, and exercises, and SHARP’s, etc.) to SUPPORT their presentation.

When it comes to persuasive impact in our communications, it is not through technology, but only with it. YOU are always the centerpiece of your presentation, and no graphically dazzling slide should ever replace you. Nor Twitter stream for that matter.

With all the advances in technology, we must continuously emphasize the critical importance of human confidence in the delivery as well as in the tools of delivery – the primary tool being yourself. With greater “high tech” we need a corresponding increase in “high touch.” Think of using videos – embed them in your PPs. And experiment with a live Twitter stream – this can be distracting in a more formal speech but is great for tech/breakout/collaborative sessions. And remember that with this advanced technology and the many more options available for visual support, your confidence and control as the centerpiece has to be even more skilled.

Think of Steve Jobs and why his presentations are so powerful. (He led our Top Ten Communicators of 2005 list, even before the famous iPhone announcement, and was on the list most years since.) While he uses elegantly simple slides and perfectly timed and executed demos, he remains the center of the presentation. Often, (as at the top of the screen here) he will completely clear the screen (using a black slide – that’s the way to do it) to keep the audience’s attention on his energy, on his enthusiasm, and on his words. Not the PowerPoint’s. (Or Keynote’s in this case.)

Remembering that you are the presentation, develop visuals that enhance your point of view. After all, visuals are important:

  • “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Cicero
  • 55% of likability – critical component of trust – comes through the visual behavior of the speaker Mehrabian
  • A 500% average increase in retention occurs when visuals are used in a presentation
  • 83% of what we know is learned by seeing and observing

For your own personal and visual impact, see yourself on video. And
when you get to support, for great tips on presentation design, check
out Garr Reynold’s blog Presentation Zen and Nancy Duarte’s blog slide:ology.

Always keep in mind that you are your most important visual aid.
Train yourself first so that you have a confidence that never quits in
the face of new technology. And then add great design.

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