If you follow blogs or bloggers covering the world of presentation technique, you will soon be seeing second-hand coverage of Dave Paradi’s annual PowerPoint annoyances survey. All of us in the business love seeing this come out every year.
The results this year are not much different than in past years. They are the reason you find the same basic tips and guidelines promoted by every presentation specialist around the world. Go read blogs or books by Garr Reynolds, Olivia Mitchell, Cliff Atkinson, Nancy Duarte, Guy Kawasaki, Jonathan Thomas, or dozens of others. They all have great advice that boils down to the same underlying fundamentals.
Not to spoil any surprises, but Dave’s top-five audience annoyances once again generally fall under the banner of presenters effectively writing white papers on PowerPoint slides. Presenters write out their speech in full sentences on the slides and are left with nothing to do but read those sentences out loud to their audience. Sometimes they cram in data-filled charts, tables, or graphs to support their statements with a mass of evidence.
Creating and delivering presentations in this way makes a tremendous amount of practical sense. It’s quick… You don’t have to waste time thinking about design issues or finding graphics. It complies with corporate guidelines… You just fill in the bullet points on your company’s “Title and Content” slide layout. It doesn’t require much, if any, practice… Your script is right there in front of you to be read. And it works great as a handout, allowing offline audiences to read through the information for themselves later.
Unfortunately, all of those benefits are already covered by white papers. If you want to write a self-explanatory document, record it as a “books on tape” recitation, and distribute it to your audience, you don’t need PowerPoint slides and you don’t need to waste an audience’s time in a live presentation.
If you are going to go to the trouble of creating a presentation and are going to ask your audience to commit their valuable time to listen to you, try something shocking… Create a presentation. Not a white paper that happens to be written on sequential slides.
This will take you extra time and effort. It is annoying and frustrating at first because it is a different learned skill set than the one you mastered when you learned how to do business document writing. But you sure will stand out from the crowd and you will be much more influential than your competitors. And don’t worry… You can still write those white papers later to serve their unique and valuable purposes.
By the way, this issue of taking the fastest and easiest route towards getting a presentation out of the way is not all on the shoulders of the presenter. Very often it is a result of management-directed priorities and recognition. Please see the post I wrote about how companies need to make presentation quality an expected and reviewed part of business performance, rather than an annoyance that gets in the way of “real work.”