How To Use PowerPoint

Did you hear the one about ….?

Congregants of Rev. Tom Ambrose, of St. Mary and St. Michael Church in Trumpington, England, met in September to complain of several things about their vicar, most notably that he delivered the Christmas sermon last year (and several since then) using Microsoft PowerPoint.

From the Daily Mail (London), 9-4-07. Reported in News of the Weird .

But seriously, folks

We write meeting reports, so we see a lot of PowerPoint presentations. The truth is, much of the time you can give a good speech without PowerPoint. The only reason to use it is to improve on your best note-based speech. Here are a few tips:

  • Compose a sentence summarizing what you know about your audience. Why are you talking to them? What do you want them to retain, and what do you want them to do? Your slides should reinforce those points and only those points.
  • Write out this logic in outline form before you begin working in PowerPoint.
  • Now summarize your reasons for using each slide. For example, “This is one of my main points. I want the audience to remember this argument above all.” Or, “This piece of information would be much easier to take in with a simple visual aid.”
  • If you have graphs (not pictures, which can work well as slides), consider making them handouts and referring to them at specific times in your speech. If handouts are not possible, be aware that PowerPoint severely limits the amount of quantitative information the audience can read from any given slide. (See Edward Tufte, “PowerPoint is Evil” or “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint.”)
  • Rehearse. If you find yourself overly dependent on your slides—or miss one—something is wrong. Back up and rethink the logic of your presentation.

To see it done right, watch An Inconvenient Truth. Al Gore gave that presentation to business and government leaders around the world over and over, refining it each time, until it became a perfect example of how to use slides rather than being used by them.

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  1. By Make Your Next Presentation A Talk Show | on November 26, 2007 at 9:22 am

    [...] Goodman’s book also expands on tips we’ve covered before—for example, always to begin by considering your audience and what they want to hear, instead of [...]

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