October, 13th, 2010

    It’s challenging enough to confidently and concisely get your word out, but technology can either be a great asset or simply a pain in your proverbial keester.  PowerPoint is your friend. Qualitatively speaking, as Glinda asked, “Is it a good witch or a bad witch?”

    That depends on how you use it. I have seen some remarkable examples of what NOT do to with PowerPoint and, conversely, some terrific ones that succeed beyond expectation.  Here are my suggestions for the “good witch” version.

    • Assume that everyone to whom you are speaking can read.  Pretty safe assumption. That being said, you do not need text on your PowerPoint. Your spoken words are more effective than written text on a screen and the image or visual displayed is therefore a COMPLIMENT to what you say.

    • You don’t want text on the screen competing for your attention. You are in the driver’s seat, not the PowerPoint. If you absolutely need to have words on a page, give them a handout. It’s a take-away for your audience and less scrambling for them to take written notes. They’ll LISTEN better. If that is not practical, make ANY words on your visuals minimal, very concise and tied to an image, graphic or easy-to-decipher chart or graph. That is much more memorable and retainable as information. And for heaven’s sake, the font has to be LARGE enough to read… in the back row!!!

    • If possible, have some variety on the same slide. You can combine several images to convey a sequence of ideas. There are easy techniques to even have some movement on the screen with one visual leading into another.  A student of mine introduced me to one such program called http://prezi.com. It’s a great way to capture and hold the attention of your audience. And if you’re feeling particularly spunky and creative, a short video can be magical. But I digress…

    • As for statistics and those “numbers” you need to impart – how about telling a great story or provide an example of the facts you are about to show and then, instead of a whole table of boring numbers, show only the TOTAL along with an image or graphic. It works like gangbusters. You may even share a chuckle if done with a bit of professional flair.
    • Time your slides to appear with your words. You are the primary focus, so bring on the visuals to dramatically enhance what YOU are saying, not the other way around. And be sure to let me know what works for you. I’d love to hear your ideas.

    Wendy Scharfman is a professional speaker, communication coach and trainer. She is the founder of Coaching for Effective Communication, a business she created to help her clients become dynamic, confident speakers who can inspire action by delivering a message that matters. Wendy specializes in Leadership Training and Team Building, Public Speaking Competencies, Message Refinement and Media Training.

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