In Bill Cunningham New York, a documentary about the great street fashion photographer, someone notes that Bill never took a mean photo in his life.
So with Bill in mind, I’m posting this example of bad PowerPoint, not to ridicule mistake-makers (I’ve made some beauts myself!), but because it can be helpful to know “what good doesn’t look like.”
Behold a Common PowerPoint Mistake
This photo was taken back in the dark ages of 2012 at the Macworld/iWorld conference in San Francisco.
Sadly, the friend who sent it to me didn’t consider this the worst slide of the show, because apparently things went downhill from here.
But while it may not take a prize for “the worst” (see the bottom of this post for that one!), it’s does illustrate a public speaking mistake that’s easy to avoid.
Where To Start On PowerPoint Mistakes!
In keeping with my beloved Rule of 3, the top 3 things to learn from this slide are:
- Don’t fill a slide with words. Seth Godin made this point almost a decade ago. It hasn’t changed.
- Don’t write down what you’re going to say. The name for a document that conveys its point by being read is “report.” If your audience can read your thoughts, what do they need you for?
- Don’t “digress,” as the title of this slide announces it’s going to do. Yes, a witty aside or quirky spontaneous observation is always welcome. But don’t plan to add extraneous ideas to your presentation. You want the logic of your ideas to pull your audience along, from beginning to end.
Trust Your Audience — and Edit Your First Try at PowerPoint
There are two reasons why people create slides like this one. (And by the way, techies are not the worst offenders; has anyone been to a corporate meeting lately?!)
- One is that they don’t trust the audience to understand what they’re saying. You could also say they don’t trust themselves to get the point across.
- The second reason for overloaded slides is that people use PowerPoint to create a first draft of their speech. This would be fine (you can draft your remarks wherever you want!), but they don’t realize they need to take another step. That next step is to take all those words off your slides and put them in your speaking notes. Your words don’t need to be onscreen if you’re going to say them!
- Once you’ve created speaking notes, go back and make slides that will capture your audience’s interest. Pictures, headlines, colors, graphic facts, even very sparse charts can all work well. Just keep your slides simple so that your audience’s attention won’t be pulled away from you!
The Big Pay-Off: Great Public Speaking
When you trust yourself and your audience, and put provocative images onscreen, rather than your speaker notes — public speaking becomes actual fun!
- You will have the freedom to just talk to your audience.
- Your audience will be able to listen to you talk, instead of listening to you read something they could have read on their own time.
- And no one will feel like they’re crawling through a desert of words or charts, thirsting for just one sip of fresh thinking.