Do not be surprised if your audience looks as if they are ready to collectively yawn when you are about to start a presentation. If you thought PowerPoint presentations have been overused, you’d be right, particularly when considering the mindless ones that bore you to death! The tool is great; let’s not blame it. It is the churning out of presentations that are neither fresh nor do anything to keep your audience engaged that is the problem. What you need is something fresh that will make the audience sit up and notice. Your presentation must have something to engage your audience mentally and make them participate in the on-going discussion and learn.
The following guidelines are applicable not only to the purely learning situations where you are being trained but also apply even to the sales pitch by a vendor. Unless the audience learns what your product or service is all about in an engaging and interesting manner, they not going to be able to remember or care how such a product or service can solve some of their problems. Unless the audience sees what’s in it for them, the sales pitch will fall flat entirely. To get your audience to listen up and pay attention, your PowerPoint presentation must be fresh and engaging.
Fresh Look, Fresh Perspective, Fresh Design
Remember: the problem is not the tool. PowerPoint has all features you need to make a great presentation. It is the content and the way you present the content that matters and that freshness starts from a fresh new look at the design of your presentation. As you open the presentation, people should notice the difference. So, the very first thing you do is to create a template that will be noticed. Do not create a gimmicky master slide that is all the bells and whistles yet is very distracting. You can use colors in the background to evoke an emotional response, so investigate your color combinations. Blue-green color schemes are usually soothing. Bright orange signifies anger. So, look up the significance of colors and then apply them to your design to evoke the right emotional response.
PowerPoint slides are an aid to what you are saying to the audience. Make sure you have plenty to say in an interesting manner and that the slides that you present support and embellish the points you are making. Since slides are only supports, do not cram them with details. The audience would be distracted trying to read all that material. Make some simple statements in addition to what you are saying. Keeping things simple applies throughout the complete presentation, not only the slides part of it. Get any help that will make the visuals attractive and attention grabbing. Use humor effectively. Do not just read your entire presentation off your slides.
Communicate Well to Keep Your Audience Engaged
Beyond the freshness of your design and approach, it is your communication skills that will help convey your message, keep the audience engaged, and let them participate in any discussions you may start. Never have more than three or four simple statements up on the slides. People have difficulty to grasp too many points at one time. After people have had a look at the points after you have brought in a slide, talk about what you had to say. It is a cardinal sin to just read your slides. If you put in most of what you want to talk about, you’ll tend to just read the stuff and get it done with. What makes sense, though, is that you expand on the simple statements and that you provide the arguments if you have presented some direct statements or decision. Present the case so that the audience sees the point and sort of arrives at the same kind of conclusions. Throw around questions if that will keep your audience engaged.
Periodic short spells when you provide visual as well as auditory breaks are not a bad idea. Connect with your audience and generate some one-on-one discussions to revive the interest in the topic. Rehearse well to maintain the flow of the presentation. But, remember: your presentation is not as rigid as a script and should definitely not sound like one at all! Polish, polish, and then polish some more by practicing your entire presentation, the visuals as well as what you are going to say, until it sparkles like a polished diamond. It is always good to give the best you can. Give out handouts at the end to keep away the distraction from the audience. Many of them might be looking at it while you present rather than paying attention to what you have to say.