Presentation Success: Three Mistakes to Avoid with PowerPoint

PowerpointPowerPoint and other presentation programs are excellent tools that can really enhance a presentation. As the old saying goes, a picture truly does paint a thousand words, and sometimes more. Pictures, graphs and other visuals can quickly communicate details that would be cumbersome to describe. Not to mention, it provides numerous opportunities to insert some humor and other attention getting devices into your presentation.

With all that being said, there are some mistakes that you should try to avoid when creating an overhead presentation. These mistakes are common and even experienced speakers run into them.

Mistake 1: Reading from your slides:

A common mistake that people make is to use their presentation as a teleprompter. It’s good to use your slides to help you not forget any points, but using it to display the script of your speech in bulleted form will put your audience to sleep. Instead, try making your bulleted points high level points from your outline and then talk about each point.

So if I were a doing a slide about this article, I would have three bullet points (one for each mistake) and then I’d talk about each point. I might include a key or memorable phrase on the slide such as “PowerPoint is not a teleprompter” but I’d only include it if it were something that I felt would stand out with the audience.

Mistake 2: Having too much media in your slides:

There seem to be two extremes here: people who put far too many (and mostly irrelevant) images in their slides and people who only use text. Either way takes away from your presentation and makes it less interesting to the audience. But the more common issue is having too much. Try to only include images and other media that enhance your presentation. Forcing something that doesn’t fit into your presentation can be a minor irritant to the audience. I once saw a presentation where every other slide had a comic strip on it and it got old pretty quickly. Another irritant is slide transitions, especially if you choose to add a random transition. About ten years ago, I did a presentation where I used a typewriter transition which slowly would type the words from my bullet list on the screen. It irritated my coworkers so much that I had to stop my presentation and remove the transition. The acid test for adding media to your presentations is “does it improve or enhance the audience’s experience?”

Mistake 3: Not planning for equipment problems:

Technology is never perfect: bulbs die out, projectors fail and electric screens get stuck. I’ve seen people prepare presentations and not being able to give them because of an equipment failure or something even as simple as not having an extension cord. Now you may be able to get away without having your overheads, but if you absolutely must use overheads for your presentation to work, then here are some tips to minimize problems:

  • Bring a backup bulb for your projector (and if possible, make arrangements to have a backup projector).
  • Ensure that the room has a white wall you can project on to in the case that there’s a problem with the screen.
  • Bring all necessary equipment (extension cords, power strips, etc.) with you. Also bring some duct tape to tape down cords to prevent tripping hazards.
  • Have printouts of your slides so you can make copies if all else fails.

These mistakes are all avoidable and like most aspects of public speaking, a little preparation can go a long way. So when you plan your next presentation, just be conscious of these mistakes and things will go much more smoothly.

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