Time to Rethink PowerPoint

Time to Rethink PowerPoint

November 3, 2021
Shari Steinbach
Business SkillsCommunications

By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor

If PowerPoint is the first thing that comes to your mind when you are prepping for a presentation, you are not alone. PowerPoint has become the business standard and is often an expectation. But if you simply focus your attention on the number of slides needed to fill an hour-long talk, you may lose sight of the real purpose of your presentation which is to connect with your audience while delivering your message.

Slides should not be used to capture everything you know about a topic, but simply to depict the essence of what you want to get across. Their true intent is to support your message and drive understanding with your participants. Slides should allow you to communicate more in less time. If your slides are heavy with text and your audience, or you, are reading from them, then you’ve created a document, not a visual aid. If you find yourself looking more at your computer and less at the audience when delivering a presentation, it’s time to rethink your PowerPoint path. Start by confirming that each slide in your presentation has a necessary purpose. If not, it shouldn’t be there. Here are a couple of approaches to ensure each slide is relevant:

Glance-and-grab strategy – Think about driving down the highway and looking into your rearview mirror. What do you see in that instant? From observing what other vehicles are doing to managing your speed, you have just a few seconds to glance up, glean information and make what could be a critical decision. You can apply this same thinking to your slide deck. If you only have a few seconds to help your audience make a decision, what information would you include? Do you use words, pictures, or both? What you use should allow your participants to glance at your slide, grab the vital information, then turn their attention to what you are saying.

The RSVP principles – To make sure your slides follow the glance-and-grab criteria you can apply the RSVP principles:

  • Relevant – Make sure each slide is pertinent to what you are saying. If it’s not needed, cut it out.
  • Subordinate – You should be the focus, and your slides should play a subordinate role. If you often find yourself saying “I know you can’t read everything on this slide, but…” your slide will be distracting rather than engaging. The attention should be on your words, not your slides.
  • Visible – If you’re doing an in-person presentation, a minimum of a 30-point font is often the rule. If presenting virtually, make sure you can read your slides on a variety of devices such as laptops, tablets and phones.
  • Pictorial – Listeners can comprehend more if your slides are more visual than textual. Steer clear of long sentences or paragraphs and make the same point with a picture if you can. Be sure to apply any animations carefully.

Make sure you are the headliner at your next appearance, not your slide deck. Don’t be afraid to step out from behind PowerPoint to deliver a compelling and engaging presentation that will achieve your goals.