A popular Net joke goes thus: “I need someone well versed in the art of torture,” the interviewer says. “Do you know PowerPoint?” Data-driven presentations are nothing new. Years before today’s slideware, companies and military largely used bullet lists shown by overhead projectors. But the format has become ubiquitous now thanks to Microsoft PowerPoint.
Today, several hundred million copies of Microsoft PowerPoint are churning out trillions of slides each year. The package has an estimated 400 million users across the world. But a lot of critics of PowerPoint point out that instead of being a visual tool used to illustrate certain elements in a presentation, the slides have become the whole presentation! The metaphor goes thus: The speaker is making ‘power points’ with ‘bullets’ to his followers.
This brings us to the point that you might have seen innumerable PowerPoint presentations. Some of them would have just about killed you with boredom. But at the same time, it looks like .ppt is a necessary evil. Let us not forget the cardinal rule—a presentation is an important tool for communicating an idea or thought from the presenter to the audience. And you have to make presentations all the time. Whether it’s a seminar or making a presentation of your business plan to potential investors and venture capitalists, it’s PowerPoint all the way.
It is, therefore, imperative not to make .ppt goof-ups. “PowerPoint acts like a framework. It helps you stay focussed. But a lot of people get carried away by PowerPoint that they forget basic presentation skills,” laments Geetesh Bajaj, Micro- soft PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional) and a contributing editor to Minneapolis-based Presentations magazine. Mr Bajaj frequently speaks on PowerPoint issues. Adds K Raj, vice-president and head, ATTEST, Aptech, “People present their skills more in PowerPoint than the subject itself.”
Before you make a presentation, it’s important that you do a trial of the actual presentation. You really don’t want to be reading speeches monotonously. Your aim should be to grab and capture the audience’s attention. Therefore, it’s important to do some preparation. In short, avoid the ‘kiss of death’—reading verbatim. “Better still, record a video while you are rehearsing for the presentation. You can be your own critic then,” says Mr Bajaj.
Mr Raj of Aptech lists out some common mistakes people commit while making a .ppt presentation. “Speaking too fast, very softly, not moving much, rushing through a slide, no eye contact or staring at one person for too long.”
Begin with a good presentation. No matter how beautiful your PowerPoint slides are, they will not hide a bad presentation.
Make sure the audience can read what you’ve written. The suggested font size is 36. Mr Bajaj offers a simple remedy. He says that when you are working out the finer details of your presentation on the computer, just go in front of the monitor (about 1-2 metres) and check out how readable the presentation is. If you can read the entire presentation from that distance without squinting your eyes, then your presentation is readable.
Avoid colours such as red and brown in your presentation. “These are dark colours and they don’t set the atmosphere of confidence in the audience and the audience is an important component of the entire process,” points out Mr Bajaj. And according to some studies, 10 per cent of the world’s population is actually colour blind! Combinations of colour are important but too much colour is avoidable
Avoid long sentences
Spell check the final copy and also review for any possible grammatical errors
Begin with a title slide and show a brief outline of topics to be covered
Carry a printout copy of the presentation in case the technology fails
Further, there should not be more than six words in a line. “The presenter should not read the slide but explain the concept. Ppt is only a tool,” reminds Mr Raj. Mr Bajaj also points out the fact that a lot of people get carried away by animations. “Limit animations to emphasise key points,” he advocates.
It’s also important that you check and recheck all the content in your copy. “Even if a junior in the organisation is preparing the presentation, the senior person who is going to make the presentation has to be involved in the process.”
You could also top the presentation with some extempore remarks and observations. “A lot of extempore is actually improvisation of the presentation,” says Mr Bajaj.
It’s also important to have a good back-up plan in place. For one, the electricity may go off suddenly, or the speaker’s laptop may not get configured in the hall where he/she wants to make a presentation. If such a situation arises, then the speaker will be at a loss of words. Make sure that you reach the designated place well in advance. Try and see if your laptop gets configured and also check out the sound system in the hall.
Mr Bajaj has the final word on the subject, “Content is the king. What is most important is how you put the point across. PowerPoint is just a medium at the end of the day.”