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Three Steps to Save Your Audience From ‘Death by PowerPoint’​

We’ve all been there: wishing for death’s cold embrace as we endure a PowerPoint that should never have been created. While a lack of design or even too many slides may be forgivable, the biggest problem is far too much content.

How do we go about making sure we keep the content down? Simply put, it’s about brutally editing your slides. But before you reach that stage, ask yourself this one question: “Do I even need a PowerPoint?”.

“If the speaker makes sense without the PowerPoint, leave the PowerPoint at home. If the PowerPoint makes sense without the speaker, leave the speaker at home.”

The redundancy effect

Let’s talk about the redundancy effect. It is a psychological phenomenon whereby if you show your audience text at the same time you tell them that information, what will be remembered by your audience is extremely close to zero. Our brain can’t or won’t take the same information in in two ways simultaneously – language, be it written or verbal is processed in the same part of the brain, which can do only one thing at a time.

Avoiding the creation of a weapon of mass distraction

Here are three questions to ask yourself before, during and after your PowerPoint creation to ensure your PowerPoint is not a weapon of mass distraction:

 1.  ‘Does it even need a PowerPoint?’

There is every possibility a Word document will solve your problem with notes both for yourself and your audience. If the only reason you’re making a PowerPoint is to keep yourself on track, then just print yourself some notes that nobody else sees. If you want to send the information as notes afterwards or have a handout for the audience to read at their own pace, again PowerPoint isn’t the program to use. Please don’t insult your audience by reading to them – we all gave that up in primary school! When you’re putting your script together, forget the expectation to use PowerPoint and be honest with yourself.

2.  ‘Do I really need to show the audience this?’

When you’re writing your outline, you may come across a particular image, graph or visual that you really need them to see. Remember it is a visual aid, it is about seeing. Tell your audience everything you can, and show them what you can’t. So, yes this means all those bullet points and fine print are very likely not needed.

One of these can be spoken…one NEEDS to be shown…

3.  ‘What can I remove?’

Your PowerPoint has been built. Before you save and close it, have a careful and brutal look at every slide with your finger hovering over the delete button. Should your slide make sense without any element removed, then by all means, remove it. Having extra visual information displayed is only distracting and adding to the redundancy effect and reducing your ability to communicate.

Know someone that needs these PowerPoint tips? Share this article with them!

Presentation Boss runs a variety of workshops for organisations looking to improve their internal communications by teaching how to present with clarity and confidence. My personal favourite is VISUALISE, which is all about effective design and use of PowerPoint. If you’d like to know more, you can get in touch with me here, on LinkedIn or email me at [email protected]

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