This image says so much. It captures some of the principal Presentation Phobias, in my opinion.
It is almost a self contained case for making the use of PowerPoint a criminal offence.
Think what would have happened if this presenter hadn’t got his 35 slides all nicely set up on his laptop. How much easier this would have been for him.
For a start, he wouldn’t have had that stressful bit of connecting to the projector whilst everyone is sitting there, arms folded, waiting for you to crash and burn before you even open your mouth. “Do I need to hit an F key here, or will it do it automatically?” ”Oh no, I forgot my Mac adapter.” ”Oh no, it’s an HDMI connection.” I’ve seen all those happen, and worse. It’s the first test, and you had better pass it or you are dead in the water.
I remember once having a conference session to do. I had the 2pm slot, so could set up over lunch. I wondered why no one was in the room at 2pm. Five minutes later a flustered looking organiser arrived and escorted me to the correct room (!), where there were 100 or so people with “What sort of time do you call this?” written all over their faces. Needless to say that was not a great moment to have to set up in public.
Back to our illustration above. If there had been no PowerPoint, there would have been no need to power through the 30 slides in the last 3 minutes. Why? Because as the audience doesn’t know what’s yet to come, you can just drop your content, and the only person who knows you did is you. People often fall into the trap of thinking that because they have spent so long on designing their slides, they have to cover all of them. I always tell people:
“If in doubt, drop it.” They don’t know what they don’t know.
One of the restrictions of PowerPoint is that it limits your flexibility. When a question comes in that is slightly off piste (because the person asking it thinks differently to you and is interested in exploring), you feel constrained to go back to what you have pre-prepared, rather than continuing to explore what seems of interest to the audience. You have spent all that time messing about with your slides, and they are going to see them whether they like it or not!
“Open wide, here it comes!” Or should that be “Bend over, here it comes!”?
I love the last point on the cartoon: ”Awkward silence Q & A”. I always think it’s a sign that you have created an audience of Children, who are probably thinking “can we go now?”, when there are no questions. It’s a measure of having successfully shut them down when they smile at you politely, but silently.
And why, by the way, would you wait until the end before they can ask questions? What if they don’t understand you, because your explanation was rubbish? “Carry on not understanding please, I’ll deal with you at the end.” You might was as well tell them to take a nap.
It’s normally the sign of a nervous presenter who wants to control the audience. Learn to love those questions, I say. They create energy, take the pressure off you (because you can hand them to others if you want to), and they give you a chance to gauge where the audience interest lies.
I’m not seriously suggesting that we do without PowerPoint. If used intelligently as an AID, it can work well. But when used as a prop, an excuse, a substitute for meaningful communication, it is a pernicious and much abused tool which does a lot of damage.
I’m planning to make another “How NOT to” video shortly with my colleague Spencer Holmes. We’re building a little series of them designed to get people thinking about how not to do things as a means of learning how to do them. I’d welcome your list of top 5 critical errors in a presenter, so we can have a go at replicating them. Send us your list and we’ll credit you at the end!
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