The "Power" of PowerPoint..........?

  • Following on from a series of sonic presentations and talks on different forums and platforms, I thought I'd comment about presenting.........specifically with powerpoint. Have you ever noticed how some people hang up their personality on a virtual coat-peg, the minute they take centre stage - to present. Their "presentation" consists of reading statistics off endless slides, often augmented by actually looking at the slides, standing halfway-on to the audience. Being on stage does accentuate one's personality which is why I think it's even more important to reflect on how Powerpoint impacts on one's "performance". Public speaking can challenge even the most extrovert personalities and leave those of a nervous disposition - complete wrecks. However there seems to be an increasing trend for speakers to seek refuge and comfort in the Powerpoint security blanket! Whilst appreciating that this means of communication is excellent to augment certain points - it comes at a price. Often the process of reading rational information from a screen dilutes the emotional proposition. The presenter's narration frequently becomes one-dimensional, lacking variation in timing, intonation and expression. Eye contact with the audience is often lost, sometimes deliberately avoided! Think how many times you have observed a person who was life and soul of the party (the night before), undergo a personality transplant the minute they click on their first PP slide! The best presenters always make their audience feel part of the process - communication is everything. If you can relax into your own personality on stage, your performance will be natural and most of all have integrity. In communication, it is really important to appeal to both the rational and emotional parts of the brain. The reason top presentations contain moments of humour is to break any pattern of monotony and form. The act of laughing actually forces people to breathe deeper, which in turn helps wake them up too! Powerpoint is quick, easy and a convenient method to convey information. However used incorrectly it can actually have a negative impact on an audience. Whilst at Capital Radio, we did some fascinating research on Music Fit. The basic premise being that we thought that a commercial would be more memorable if the music that was used in it reflected the Brand's personality - as opposed to music that didn't (I'll do a separate Blog about this on another occasion). The results were very revealing with Brand and Product recall far higher with the "Fit" music. What was fascinating however was that the same ad (just the bare voiceover) with no music scored higher than the "Non-Fit" music. Meaning that unless you appreciate communicating the correct balance of emotional and rational information, you risk losing memorability and stand-out. It is vital to stimulate both hemispheres of the brain in order to increase recall. Therefore if you want your presentations to have stand-out, then you need to consider the balance and order of your content and how you use your own personality to convey this. When I use Powerpoint (actually I use Keynotes which I feel is far more pleasing aesthetically), I make absolutely sure that any slides used have engaging content (generally movie clips, images or music - with even rational information presented iconographically), I then make sure that whatever I announce alongside, balances out the rational or emotional overall output. I tend to move about when on stage too - that's because of research proving that different messages can have more impact depending on what side of a stage you stand when making them! Frequently I don't use Powerpoint at all - in fact recently I was presenting at a large conference when the video projector broke down. This wasn't a big deal as my presentations contain so much audio. Afterwards a number of people seemed amazed that the talk had gone so well, despite not being able to use Powerpoint. Even though I reiterated the importance of audio in my talks, it didn't seem to "compute", demonstrating that a real culture exists in perceiving how to present.....& it has to be with Powerpoint! So in conclusion, why not try experimenting with just audio backing next time you have to present? It will certainly give you stand-out! More importantly you will have to focus on the human and emotional elements of communication! People like to talk, like to be engaged with and like to look into the eyes of the people talking to them. It means you will have to practice your presentation a little more as you can't rely on visual clues or prompts, but it could well be perceived as far more natural and engaging. Here is a link to what we consider to be a fantastic presentation, that certainly reflects the point of this Blog. It's slick, compelling, entertaining and beautifully balanced:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html