It’s appalling how awful most PowerPoint presentations are. Think about it. When was the last time you saw a truly great slideshow? Especially as part of a business presentation, it’s rare for people to say,
“Wow, That was an awesome PowerPoint!”
LOL. Most people are resigned to the slideshow struggle being something they just have to put up with…
Recently I’ve seen some informative, entertaining, and emotionally moving presentations from high-achieving professionals with serious credentials sharing important messages. I’m privileged to enjoy talented speakers in my Rotary club, women’s leadership network, and have connected friends who invite me to events.
Opportunities to present to these types of groups are “speaker gold” for people seeking support from their communities (such as fundraising, building awareness for events or demand for tickets, sharing passion for a cause, managing a public image, selling books, etc.). Presentations like these are commonly meant to educate and/or inspire audiences to act. And just like other business presentations (including training), they usually include a PowerPoint slideshow.
All of these had awesome stories and engaging speakers! They also had truly disappointing PowerPoint slides.
The good news is I truly enjoyed the content of the presentations and learning about the speakers, which included a head of surgery who volunteers around the world to help children, a hospital CEO sharing stories of her team overcoming extraordinary circumstances, a local developer with exciting city venue updates, and an Olympic committee announcing upcoming athletic events.
Here’s the thing: there was nothing technically wrong with any of the slideshows. They were typical for today’s educated professionals. Strangely, they lacked the level of professionalism we see in every other area of their work. There is a sad irony about this! These accomplished professionals regularly use PowerPoint as a presentation tool for their public speaking, as well as for team and committee meetings. However, it’s clear that none of them have had the benefit of learning principles of visual design or PowerPoint business skills. If they had, their slides would be better.
I confessed to a friend that I wanted to call them up and ask if I could redo their slides! Obviously, that could be quite offensive, but I really believe in what they’re doing and I’d love to see them be even more successful moving audiences to support their causes.
It would be wonderful to see them further their important work and tell their stories with a bit more polish.
Just like award-winning movie productions, excellent slideshows have the power to support the message of the speaker, while helping the audience be swept along. We can all recognize how B-movies just don’t compare. Yes, a good plot alone might create a cult classic, but the truly great movies have content that connects, logical sequencing, and visually appealing production that engages audiences more powerfully throughout the story.
“Like basic guidelines of movie production, PowerPoint presentations can also benefit from a few Rules of Thumb to increase engagement, remove typical distractions, and avoid disappointing quality which reduces the credibility of the presenter.”
Anyone can avoid B-movie style presentations by removing poor quality images, discordant fonts and colors, cheesy backgrounds, too many elements (and words) per slide, and similar issues that cause audiences to squint, temporarily tune out, or inadvertently cause anxiety through illogical slide organization or overstimulation from tacky design choices.
As speakers and trainers that others look up to, you and I are obligated to continue learning ways to raise the bar, to connect with our audiences more deeply, and ensure the message has every chance to make the intended powerful, positive impact.
We want our attendees to say “WOW, that was an amazing presentation!!”
Unfortunately, our audiences are perilously easily distracted by almost anything. Still, it’s our job to keep their rapt attention. If we want to make some small changes with a big impact, where should we start? The best option is to sign up for Impactful Designs as part of our Train The Trainer series, because:
- Until we have learned foundational PowerPoint skills for trainers it can be overwhelming to explore the many useful features and still use our time effectively!
- Until we have awareness of visual design principles which help positively influence learning, we are likely to either create boring and safe slideshows or attempt to show off our PowerPoint prowess, both of which can be annoying and distracting to learners.
Enhancing slideshow “production quality” is easy once you know how, whether you start a new show from scratch or update an existing file. While there are countless changes I would make in each of those slideshows I mentioned above, they all had a few things in common that can be fixed easily with basic PowerPoint skills.
Common problems include poor-quality pictures, several small pictures per slide, and slide background design competing with slide content.
Three easy PowerPoint recommendations to enhance slideshow quality and presenter credibility:
- Find higher quality images in .png format
- Use one picture per slide with few words (or no words)
- Use a simple slide background (or hide background graphics)
While the rest of the recommendations are also easy to do (and don’t take much time once learned), explaining them here would make for a very long post! If you’re interested in the art and science of using visuals to enhance your presentation impact, as well as which specific PowerPoint tips and tricks trainers need to know (plus vital Word techniques for creating training content), sign up for Impactful Designs, check out the February 2021 Quarterly Boost recording, or email us to request a custom workshop for your team or association.
Get out there and WOW them!
Heather Legge, Senior Training Specialist, is passionate about sharing priceless skills that every trainer and presenter needs to cut through unnecessary distractions and fully capture and inspire audiences!