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5 Communication Skills Tips for Becoming a PowerPoint Outlaw

Posted on September 14, 2011 by Leslie Dickson

too many bullet points

Your PowerPoint presentation will be outlawed if a start-up political party in Switzerland has its say.  Okay, maybe they’re not really all that serious, but we appreciate the point of view at VoicePRO®. The group laments that millions of people worldwide “are obliged to be present at boring presentations” at a cost of billions of dollars in lost time. Who knows? They might get some votes in the U.S. come November.

On the other hand, isn’t outlawing PowerPoint a little like outlawing pencils because people write boring books? My suggestion? Instead of outlawing PowerPoint, let’s be PowerPoint outlaws. Let’s break the rules of the Presentation Police.

Want to join my gang? I’ve drawn up the PowerPoint Outlaw’s Code of Honor. So, raise your right hand and pledge…

1) Escape the slide.

Resist the lure of a template that wants to think for you. It automatically suggests bullet points, so you think in bullet points. It includes clip art, so it paints the picture instead of you. It offers up flying arrows so that becomes your default gesture of emphasis or impact.

2) Aim high.

Instead of letting PowerPoint lead your thinking, ask yourself some questions. What’s your most important message? What’s the most powerful way to communicate it? A photo? A video? A single point? A symbolic object from the organization’s trophy case? Make that your target.

3) Unload the bullets.

A PowerPoint presentation loaded with bullet points does not communicate more.  In fact, including every detail has the opposite effect. Your main message gets lost in the sea of words. And, if you design your presentation as a leave-behind document, you’re almost certain to have too much detail. When you’re saying the same thing that people can read over your shoulder, it’s an invitation to tune you out.

4) Be a storytelling hero.

Concentrate on creating slides that inform, and stories that inspire. It’s with examples and illustrations that you hold attention, influence and persuade. A vivid word picture may be more powerful than charts, clip art and bullet points in conveying your organization’s vision, mission, values, and goals.

5) Don’t talk until you see the whites of their eyes.

When you turn your back on listeners to read from your slides, you will lose them. Eye contact is crucial if you’re going to truly connect. That’s how colleagues see your fire, your concern, your confidence in your message. At the same time, you can gauge your audience’s interest and understanding and adapt your presentation if need be.

Got any other outlaw tactics you’d like to share? I’d like to hear them for a future column. In the meantime, saddle up and let’s get down to business.

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