6 vital questions to ask before you use PowerPoint

Reducing the number of slides, or ditching them altogether, would vastly improve most team meetings and presentations.

Despite this, it is estimated that over 30 million PowerPoint presentations are given every day. It is, without doubt, the default slide software for most professionals to communicate their ideas.

That PowerPoint is so commonly used doesn't mean that using it is common sense!

Heres why.

What's wrong with PowerPoint

Nothing frankly.

It's simplicity and ease of use means that it can be used by anyone.

PowerPoint is great software. The way most people use it is the issue. 

Slide after slide full of wordy bullet points. Charts and graphs that are barely readable.

These are the real problems for most presenters or more importantly, these are the issues for audiences.

The presentations that succeed are not the ones with the most text, data or the most elaborate charts and graphs; the winners have the most compelling and convincing narratives.

Whether you're a CEO, a salesperson, a team manager or a scientist, you must understand how to connect with an audience, how to construct a powerful narrative argument, and how to visually display information for maximum audience comprehension.

Well constructed slides really enhance your presentation and the experience of the audience.

To help you craft visually compelling slides, here are six questions to ask yourself before you start jotting down bullet points!

Six essential questions


1. Do I need a slide at all?

Often the best way to ‘show’ people is to paint a picture using your words.  Get them to see, hear and feel through the power of your language alone.  

Using stories, anecdotes and examples ensures your information or data becomes real.

Your audience will create their own pictures inside their heads They are all the more engaged because of it.

Amazon have gone as far as banning PowerPoint altogether. You can read why and what they use instead here.

2. Are the slides designed for you or the audience ?

In most cases, presenters use slides and the various bullet points as a prompt.

Your audience can either focus on the presenter’s words and absorb the information they’re hearing, or they can focus on the slides and absorb what they’re seeing.

In other words, if your bullet points say what you are saying, one of you is not needed.

Your audience will often read ahead of their presenter and so they know what's coming. That's an invitation to tune out and that's exactly what they do.

If any of your slides are designed for you rather than the audience, it's time to ditch them.

3. Are your slides readable?

How many times have you heard a presenter say "I know this slide is difficult to read but...."?

All too often.

This happens because charts and graphs contain too much information and data.

As the presenter prepares his / her slides, they are close to their computers and can see the information easily. That doesn't mean they are easy to read from the back of a room 30 feet away from the projector screen.

Simplify graphs and flow charts so they contain only the essential information.

Make the font size on your slides bigger.

Steve Jobs, the former Apple CEO, rightly earned the reputation for being a superb presenter. He generally used 190-point text.

Bigger text is easier to read and means there are less words on each slide.

4. Is your slide a visual aid?

The evidence is very clear. Humans are more likely to recall information when its presented as pictures with few, if any words.

Pictures, graphs, diagrams are great.  Seriously question any slide with more than a few words. Dump slides with sentences and don't even consider paragraphs!  

5. Could you edit your slides even more?

It is common for slides to contain 6-10 bullet points and so have 40 to 80 words per slide.

Again, you can follow the example of Steve Jobs.

Whilst most presenters try to pack their slides with words, Jobs did the opposite.

He used every iteration of his presentations to remove and remove text. Often his slides contained only one or two words next to a visual image.

Take a look at the video below where Steve Jobs introduces the iPhone in 2007. In particular, focus on his slides. Note how prominent the images are and how few words, if any, he employs.

Making the text size much bigger will force you to reduce the number of words and make it easier for your audience.

6. Could you provide handouts?

Avoid creating slides that also act as handouts.  They won’t be good handouts and will usually be awful slides.  Handouts are to be read and digested.  Slides are to be seen and absorbed alongside the speaker’s presentation.

Using handouts during your presentation can help to engage your audience. They can be invaluable to cover off more detailed graphs and statistics.

In summary, most audiences are bored by dense PowerPoint presentations.  Stand out from the crowd and do something different. 

About the Author Paul Lucas

For over 20 years, I’ve been helping leaders, managers and sales teams get better results by improving their communication and influencing skills. My training is founded upon extensive research and analysis. Helping you to understand the specific behaviours, techniques and strategies of the world’s best speakers and influencers provides the platform to transform your presentations and sales skills.

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