Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Stamp Out Bad PowerPoint Toolkit

Yesterday, CSI unveiled The PowerPoint Patch in an effort to address the most severe cases of PowerPoint addiction. We're talking about people who cling to it for ALL human interaction. For people who if they were quitting their job would systematically make their case using bullet points and charts to explain why the relationship had to end. While such an approach clearly wouldn't be well received by the audience; PowerPoint addicts don't care about their audience. They need help and The PPT Patch can provide it. If you're an addict, please don't open the toolkit until you've gotten some help.

The Toolkit

The Instructional Video
- Because we can learn as much or more from bad examples as good ones, please watch Don McMillan's video presentation titled: Life After Death By PowerPoint. While you'll soon realize that while you may have sat through similar such presentations, and maybe even delivered a few yourself, it offers you the opportunity to laugh, learn some key don'ts, and move forward.

The Hammer - As SHU professor Karl Soehnlein says, make it BIG, BOLD & BRIEF. You're under no obligation to bore your audience. Presumably, you're trying to present information or make a case in a way that's impactful. Most people don't give enough thought to the fact that while you may have been working on your presentation for weeks, you'll likely have about 10-15 minutes to present your idea AND make sure your audience actually receives it. You're there to influence. Make sure you bring your hammer.

Your Mind - Craft your story. Make your case. Ask for what you want. Consider the outcome. Understand what you want your audience to do.

Your Heart - There are many ways to convey your story and the factual nature of it. Use your mind to predict what you want your audience to do. Use your heart to guide you as to how you want them to feel.

Your Audience - Your most powerful tool is actually sitting across from you. Your audience didn't come to look at slides, they came to be persuaded and often entertained. Understand their likes, dislikes, hot buttons, and emotional triggers. If you're speaking to a group you've never met, learn what you can and try to meet people as they're getting settled into the room; ask questions, gain insights, and integrate them into your presentation.

Your Colleagues - Rehearse your presentation in front of your colleagues. Try to gather people who may understand the content well along with those who may know it less well. Ask for feedback, not about your performance, but about whether they got the message you intended. What did they think? How did they feel?

A Big Note Pad & Multi-Colored Markers - Create an experience where you and the audience are sharing in the visual depiction of the content, whether it's words or images. You don't have to have great penmanship or be a great artist. (A little marginal artwork can often humanize what might otherwise be an overly slick presentation).

A Metaphor - It can be in the form of a physical object that is left on the seat of each of the audience members or simply the expression of an idea. Use it to illustrate your point and bring your audience into the frame of mind you believe will be most advantageous to their receiving your message. Presentation training guru Toni Louw once told me, "illustrate, don't explain!"

Web Sites - Whether it's your own web site or those of others, live internet connections create the opportunity to take people to content that is relevant to the audience at any given moment. One of the traps of PowerPoint can be its linear nature and lack of flexibility. The whole "we're going to take you through these 85 slides whether you like it or not" dynamic is not a small problem. Using web content and web video can offer great flexibility and visual interest.

Some Variety - Even if PowerPoint is your tool of choice, that doesn't mean it has to be your only tool. Engage your audience by accompanying your PPT Presentation with handouts or presentation boards (not of the PowerPoint presentation) that give your audience something to hold. Or grab that Note Pad & Marker and offer a splash of "planned spontaneity." Using video and audio, and just mixing mediums in general can be very powerful ways to keep a presentation dynamic, particularly if it runs any longer than 15-20 minutes.

PowerPoint - I list PowerPoint last somewhat symbolically. Not that it should be your last resort, but it shouldn't always be your default choice either. If you use it, think of it more in terms of outdoor advertising than a print ad. Imagine that your audience is driving by your slide at 70 miles an hour. Its purpose is to support your message not to BE the message. Whenever possible, use simple visuals rather than words. To crawl inside the particulars of better PowerPoint, consider reading Cliff Atkinson's, Beyond Bullet Points.

A big thanks to Rich Teplitsky for recommending the book and to everyone at Linkedin who responded to my question this week! While this post only scratches the surface, I hope you found it helpful and that it encourages you to explore more effective ways to inspire your audience in the future.

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