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Avoiding Death By Power Point

Who has ever had a near-death-by-powerpoint experience?

It’s after lunch or dinner and the presenter dims the lights and brings out the laptop and projector. Slide after slide rolls on, densely packed with graphs, text and images and the presenter fades into the background. Her voice is a metronome lulling you to sleep.

Yawn. You’re gone.

Presentations don’t have to be like that.

Slides are best used sparingly to underpin key points or show interesting and relevant images. The power point is not the main attraction; you are.

You are your best visual aid. Really!

Being human and being passionate about your topic goes a long way.

Our fascination with faces is hardwired. Scientists claim even near-sighted new-borns seek out faces more than anything else in their environment.

On the other hand, while we love eye contact with individual faces, we don’t usually like being stared at by large crowds – unless we’re very extroverted. It’s our fear of being watched and judged that leads many of us to hide behind power point presentations.

However, if you must, here are the power point golden rules:

Keep the number of slides to a minimum.

6X6 – use only six dots points per slide and only six words across.

Match your words to each slide.

Use only simple and easy to read graphs.

Spell-check. Grammar and spelling mistakes kill credibility.

As the old saying goes: ‘you wouldn’t worry about what people thought of you if you knew how little they did.’ We get nervous when we visualise all the things that could go wrong instead of how good it will be. Ninety-nine per cent of presentations do not end in the presenter’s death.

To combat nerves, focus on your audience. What do they want? Most people just want to see a great presentation and won’t even notice your nerves. If you are interested in your topic, your audience will be too.

Ask yourself : ‘what value can I give this audience to make their lives easier, richer, or more meaningful?’

Visualising the success of your talk is not flaky fortune cookie advice – it’s a proven technique. When a journalist once asked super star U.S. basketball player Michael Jordan what he was thinking just before he scored a winning goal in front of millions of viewers, he said: “I just thought about all the times I’d done it right.”

However, things do go wrong from time to time. Technology can fail – (another good reason not to rely on power point), sometimes you can lose your train of thought or trip over a power cord.

I was once giving a talk, when my wrap-around dress began to unravel. I made a gag about getting more exposure. The audience laughed and warmed to me after that. Mistakes are human, not the end of the world.

Preparation and rehearsing are the other crucial elements in combatting nerves. For some people that means researching and practising for days. For others, it’s writing a few notes on a beer coaster five minutes before getting up to speak. Only you can gauge how much preparation you need to feel comfortable.

Have a clear objective – why are you presenting? Are you there to inform, inspire, entertain or educate? This will help structure your presentation and give you a specific and dated call-to-action at the end of your talk, e.g.: Vote for me. Sign up for my podcast. Buy my book. Give me a promotion.

Final tip: Smile. It will trick your brain into relaxing and help build rapport with your audience.

Contact: Theresa Miller

Business: millerink media

Phone: +61 (0) 408 602 299

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