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I have asked hundreds of people (no exaggeration), What is the most annoying thing that PowerPoint presenters do to you? What is it that most makes you wish you had something to throw?

Here's the answer: "Reading out every word I can read perfectly well for myself."

That habit gets the big angry vote. Such presenters are effectively saying to the audience:

You're so thick, I'll have to help you out with the words.

Of course the presenter doesn't intend the insult; more likely he or she is just filling in an uncomfortable silence. But it's a major credibility downer.

The solution is easy.

Headline written words, add value with spoken words

Decide roughly what has to be said. Then write on the screen the barest possible essence, so that you can easily add value with your words.

For example, suppose you intend to tell your audience something like this:

"The advent of the world cup in 2018 is going to put a great deal of pressure on our customer services. We're going to have to be efficient and fully staffed."

Whatever you do, don't write that on the screen. Just write something like:

Pressure on in 2018

Then, when you speak the full two sentences you add value to what they can see.

Two exceptions

You can sometimes read out every word without rousing the wrath of the audience if:

  • the exact wording is important or
  • it's a quote and you can give it more meaning with your tone

Sometimes.

Don't put the whole presentation on the screen

The worst PowerPoint presenters are usually those who think the entire slide show must be self-sufficient. In fact you should take a hard look at each lot of headlines and ask yourself: does this slide really need to be a slide? Or can I give it better impact without PowerPoint?

What about the handouts?

Handouts? Here's a useful trick.

Do your handout version in full on PowerPoint - all the facts and fully written sentences - and label it Widget Campaign Handout.

Then save it under the name Widget Campaign Screen and go through it with a slasher, not just headlining, but also eliminating slides that do not add impact - until you have a slide show that needs a presenter to give it meaning and purpose.

Don't make word monsters. Headline words, cut slides and make PowerPoint serve you - not the other way around. Take back the power in PowerPoint.

Michael

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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