Raising Your Voice, Part 4

(The fourth in a series on effective public speaking.)

In today’s high-tech world, it sometimes seems there are far fewer traditional speeches and far more “PowerPoint presentations.” Indeed, while we have not yet seen a State of the Union Address or a Presidential Inaugural speech featuring a PowerPoint, I suspect it won’t be long before we do.

While PowerPoints do have some built-in advantages in terms of securing and holding the attention of an audience, there also are pitfalls that must be avoided if you are to best use these advantages to deliver a compelling and memorable presentation. Here are a few basic tips for effective PowerPoint presentations. (Please imagine that these tips are being projected on a large screen in front of you.)

Remember the rule of 6 P’s: Prior proper planning prevents poor performance

Just because you are giving a PowerPoint presentation and not a traditional speech does not mean you shouldn’t practice. A presentation with catchy graphics that is poorly delivered will be remembered not for the graphics, but for the delivery. All the keys of a successful speech – interesting material, voice modulation, eye contact, good transitions, effective use of humor, etc. are just as important in a successful PowerPoint presentation.

Technology is wonderful, but not perfect

Here’s a shocker – machines do break. Get to your presentation early to make sure everything is in working order. I have been to more than a few PowerPoint presentations where the speaker fumbles with some technological snafus and by the time everything is in working order, the audience has checked out.

Spellcheck is a great invention – use it

I also have been at several PowerPoint presentations where there is a glaring spelling error in one of the slides. As the error is noticed, audience members nudge one another, point, laugh and generally do not pay attention to what the speaker is saying or the other information on the slide.

Don’t be a parrot – The audience can read the material on the slide

They don’t need you to read it to them. Effective PowerPoint presenters do not simply read verbatim the material on the slides. They broaden and amplify the material.

Go blank

When you are making the key point in your presentation, often it helps to have the audience give its full attention to you, and not to a slide. Try having the PowerPoint go to a blank screen when you want all eyes on you.

Make copies

You can always count on the fact that someone in your audience will want a copy of your PowerPoint. Be sure to have plenty of copies ready for distribution. Some experienced speakers advocate distributing handouts at the beginning of your presentation. Others believe this is distracting and distribute copies at the end of the presentation. Decide what works best for you, based on size of audience, complexity of material, etc.