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The Quickest Way to Annoy Your Audience

I must admit something. This article could just as easily have been called “The Quickest Way to Annoy Roquita.” However, this personal pet peeve of mine is certainly not unique to me.  It’s a sentiment shared by many an audience member who’ve attended a presentation.

How do you annoy your audience in no time flat?

By misusing PowerPoint.

Yes, there are other ways to turn an audience off  but using PowerPoint inappropriately ranks high on the list. Having attended a number of workshops and seminars over the years, it is often – in my humble opinion – the deciding factor for a presentation being deemed excellent or egregious. (Here’s a little history lesson for you: egregious initially meant “good.” My, how definitions change!)

Here are three ways speakers incorrectly use PowerPoint, and how you can avoid them:

1.They use WAY too many slides.

Sometimes people will ask me to review a PowerPoint presentation they’ve prepared for an upcoming event.  The first thing I notice with many of them is slide overload.  Unless you want your audience members’ eyes to glaze over, please PLEASE cut down on the number of slides.  How many should you use?  Well, that depends. It depends on if that slide supports or reinforces your message.  Does this slide visually support the verbal aspect of your presentation?  An example would be using a bar graph that helps clarify the information you’re communicating.  This image adds value to your presentation because it helps the audience have a clearer understanding.

Slides are there for the the audience’s benefit – not the speaker’s.  And far too many speakers use PowerPoint for the latter. To helpthemremember what to say next.  Then you end up with 50 slides that, truthfully, don’t add value to your message.  Always ask yourself if the slide will aid the audience.

2.Reading everything on the slide.

Does the thought of being read to excite you? Probably only if you’re at a live storytelling event or are five years old. Outside of these two instances, your audience will be caught off guard by you reading all your slides verbatim. First, your slides shouldn’t be cluttered with a lot of text in the first place.  Having a long list of bullet points on each slide is not an effective way to convey your main points, but I’ll expand on that more in mistake #3.

If you are going to include text, less is more.  Try to limit bullet points to brief statements or ideas. Notice I said brief – your bullet point should not be an entire sentence or paragraph.  It should be something short enough that allows you to expound on it more to the audience.  Think of it like an appetizer that is merely preparing the audience for the entree: the key message you’re about to give them.  This approach cuts down on slide text and helps prevent you from reading a list of unnecessary bullet points verbatim.

3.Not using images.
Do you know what’s often better than using words to get your message across? Not using words at all. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, right?  There’s nothing inherently wrong using text in your presentations, but images are usually more powerful.  Take a look at my example below of two different slides:

Both slides communicate the same message.  But wouldn’t the visual on the right stand out more to you?

Images are powerful because people will remember them long after your presentation is over. There is ample research out there that supports this.  I will add that it’s important to include the right kind of images though.  Again, anything that helps clarify your key points better should be utilized: charts, pictures, graphs, and timelines are a few examples.  Try to avoid using images that don’t add value in any way. Yes, Pokemon are all the rage again right now, but unless they are relevant to your message – nix them.

PowerPoint is a great tool when used in the right way.  It should always be used to enhance your audience’s understanding instead of detracting from it.  After all, they came to hear you speak for a reason. Don’t disappoint or annoy them by misusing PowerPoint.

What else would you add to this list?


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