Remedies for Toxic PowerPoint

Our last newsletter challenged you to take the PowerPoint Toxicity test (here is that newsletter if you missed it). We also promised you in that last newsletter to give you some remedies for some of these bad habits we use that create Toxic PowerPoint.


toxic1Here is a review of question number one from our test:

  1. Do you use PowerPoint as a teleprompter?
    If you put the majority of your comments on the slide as text, then find yourself turning and reading from the slide to your audience, you are using it as a teleprompter.

You are also using PowerPoint as a teleprompter if any of the following statements are true.

  1. Well, I don't really have time to rehearse, so I'll just put all my data on the slides where I can see it.
  2. All the detail is very important, so I have to put it all on the slides.
  3. I'm afraid I'll forget something, so I need to put al my words on the slides.
  4. It's how I've always done it!

As a sidebar, we want to share with you that when we talk to audiences about the presentations they see, this topic almost always comes up. Folks, audiences are so tired of having slides read to them that they're close to rebellion. So listen closely to these remedies!

Remedy 1, Don't use PowerPoint.
If your presentation isn't visual or is full of detail and data, you'd better serve your audience by preparing a document and sharing the information that way. There are many times when it is perfectly appropriate not to use PowerPoint, maybe a flip chart or white board will work instead. And you may be pleasantly surprised at the nice connection you make with your audience by leaving the projector and slides out of the meeting.

Remedy 2, Put the detail in the notes.
We repeat, put the detail in the notes. If you find yourself apologizing in the middle of your presentation for a slide that "I know you probably can't read this," you've committed the biggest PowerPoint sin of all. Put the detail in the notes section of PowerPoint, then print out the presentation in the notes view and give your audience handouts (either before you present so they can follow along, or after as they're leaving the room). But do not under any circumstances try to put all the detail on a slide when you know the audience won't be able to read it. There is nothing worse to your audience than hearing you apologize for a slide, then straining to read it anyway.

Remedy 3, Use notes or notecards for yourself.
If you're worried you won't remember your script or all the detail in your presentation, create notecards or a print-out of your speaker notes. An audience really doesn't mind if you refer to your notes while talking to them. But they do mind if you've projected your script in the format of "slides" and then read to them. We know this because they tell us this all the time!

So there is our first set of remedies. We hope this will get you started on your way to creating better presentations for your audience. Stay tuned for our next remedy, which will share ideas on alternatives to bullet point slides.

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