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PPT: a Visual Aid, Not a Distraction

Posted by Stephen Lemire on November 29, 2011 at 9:50 AM

When introducing my graduate students to the skills of effective presenting or stressing to staff the techniques for the use of PowerPoint (PPT), I emphasize three items: 1) focus on your content; 2) keep your presentation simple; and 3) don’t be seduced by audio visual bells & whistles.

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I ask my students and staff a series of questions to help with their preparation:
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Who will the audience be?

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Do you have a clear purpose of your role (presenter, facilitator, discussion leader, etc.)?

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Do you know your objective (to provide general information, to educate, to get across a point, to challenge the audience to a course of action, etc.)?

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What style of presentation are you most comfortable using? Which is most appropriate for this setting? Which will you employ (formal speech, casual and informative, entertaining and thought-provoking, etc.)?

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Do you have stories (not tangents) and examples prepared to support your key points?

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Will you employ PPT as a visual aid (not as a crutch)? Will you remember that images are more effective than words?

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Above all, will you smile, make eye contact with all audience members, and move around the podium/stage, as appropriate?

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I also offer a series of very basic PPT rules to those who have not made many PPT presentations (yes, they still exist) or to those who feel like they don’t have a firm grasp on its role to support their talk. My primer:

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1) Use only upper case, bold letters in contrasting primary colors for text.

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2) Follow the 24-word rule (a.k.a. Lemire Rule). Each page should contain no more than 24 words (3 bullets of 8 words; 4 bullets of 6 words; etc.). The title is not included in the word total.

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3) Emphasize visuals (photos and graphics) rather than words. They complete your story and drive home your point.

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4) Have few slides in total; make a handout containing even less; pass out the handout at the end of your talk. Include your contact information for follow-up inquiries.

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5) Do not look at your slides when presenting. (If you need to see what's on a slide, look at your pc monitor.) Your attention must remain directed forward toward the audience at all times.

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6) Never read from your slides. (Your audience can read it for themselves.) Your role is to provide supporting information. Tell them something else!

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…and don’t forget to smile.

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The following link (per Presentation Zen) is a perfect example of someone who refused to follow any of my recommendations: http://www.presentationzen.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/2007/09/06/darth_2.jpg

Categories: Education, Executive Directors, Odds & Ends

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