“Communication is about getting others to adopt your point of view, to help them understand why you’re excited. If all you want to do is create a file of facts and figures, then cancel the meeting and send in a report.” – Seth Godin
If you read my article titled ‘Has Powerpoint Killed Discussion’, you will have noted that I took a shot at the abusive application of PowerPoint and how it can ruin and kill discussion.
Don’t get me wrong. I think PowerPoint is a great tool. But that’s all it is – one tool. Many of us have let PowerPoint become is the ONLY tool and the focus of any meeting, presentation and pitch. The problem with that is that we focus too much on the images, animation and look of what we are going to present and less on the content – what we need to communicate to our! Content is the key! Everything else is stuff!
So how can we make this great tool work for us in a way that we stimulate discussion and interchange of ideas, instead of a date and image download? What should comprise the content?
I would suggest that the first thing we need to think about, is what are we trying to communicate and what is the best format for that? We may not need PowerPoint. Now there’s a revelation. We may be better off just showing samples, prints, or pictures and talking about each one.
But let’s assume PowerPoint is the chosen vehicle of communication. What then, do you want the audience to remember? Only a small percentage of communication involves actual words; 7%, to be exact. In fact, 55% of communication is visual (body language, eye contact) and 38% is vocal (pitch, speed, volume, tone of voice). The world’s best business communicators have strong body language; a commanding presence that reflects confidence, competence, and charisma. If that’s the case, then why do we insist on filling pages with text and then reading it to the audience. They can probably read quicker than us anyway – trust me!
I contend that PowerPoint should be used to stimulate discussions and help people remember the points you want them to. Text won’t do that as well as images and graphics and color. Most people create a presentation working within PowerPoint. They copy and paste text, images and charts from various sources while letting the structure of the content evolve! This is like building a house by hiring construction workers and then directing them where to put walls, windows and doors as you make it up spontaneously. A successful, well constructed presentation is formulated with the audience in mind, much like an architect designing the house, planning where the walls, windows and doors will be and then selecting colors of paint and materials. Only then do you hire the labor to build it!
There’s that old saying that “a picture tells a thousand words.” But the pictures used in decks have to be impactive and relevant to the subject! I have for sometime now argued that there should be two versions of a deck for the audience. The version that is presented, with images, pictures and charts which are described by the presenter and a second version which contains the same content but text to explain the points which can be used for reference at a later date.
Some companies I have noticed, notably Divisions within Coca-Cola, request a pre-read prior to meetings so that more time spent in the meeting will be time discussing things rather than going through the presentation.
So, there IS a place for PowerPoint and it is a powerful tool; but it is one of many that can be used to make your argumentation more impactive and discussion-led. Remember, it’s use needs to structured and planned around what needs to be said, the objective of the meeting and what the audience will find of interest.
If you have any other ideas of how to better utilize PowerPoint, I for one would be very interested. Let me know…In the meantime, let’s provide better environments for discussions to flow!