6 Tips on How to Use PowerPoint More Effectively by Peter Dhu

I’ve just attended a conference where I observed medical and health professionals present their paper – psychologists, nurses, Doctors, speech pathologists, and others. They were all very passionate about their work and they were very skilled and very knowledgeable around their topic.

However, many people made some common mistakes in their PowerPoint Presentations. These are simple errors that can be fixed really easy and will make them a more effective and engaging presenter. For anyone in the health profession who finds themselves presenting at a conference, this article and the tips are for you.

6 Tips on How to Use PowerPoint More Effectively
(And Some Common Mistakes To Avoid)

1. Don’t put up a slide that is too small to read.

I saw quite a few people put up complex diagrams and data information that no one could read and the comment from the speaker was “I know that nobody can read this but the point I’m trying to make is …………”

If this is the case, the best way to do that is not to show that slide at all but have one for yourself in your notes, and then describe what you’re going to talk about without putting up an image that no one can read. This avoids confusion from the audience because having an audio visual aid that no one in the room can read is a waste of our time.

2. Avoid using too many words or too many bullet points on your slide.

The purpose of the slides is to aid your audience to understand what you are talking about from a visual perspective. If it’s just word after word after word, then the idea or concept that you are trying to project would look just like a textbook, which we can read ourselves.

What we need is a summary. It could be two to three bullet points, a diagram or a picture that illustrates what the key point of that slide is. There should only be one idea per slide. You can have a separate page of notes for yourself to read with all the additional detail if you need to. But from an audiovisual perspective, the slide you show up should be simple, clean and three bullet points are enough.

3. Don’t ask how you’re going for time midway through your presentation.

A professional speaker, researcher, and a professional person should be able to manage their own time. One of the easiest ways is to bring up your smartphone and just download a timing app. If you’ve got 20 minutes, load 20 minutes, bring it up and press start when you start speaking. You will be able to see your countdown as you go

When you look at the MC or the chairman and ask about the time it looks disorganised and as if you’re not really prepared. If they say you’ve got five minutes left but you’ve still have 10 minutes of content to go, that also looks unprofessional as you rush and skip slides.

Manage your own time. Keep to time and don’t ask the forbidden line, “How am I going for time?”

4. Don’t read from the slides.

I see a lot of people presenting who turn to face the screen and read. So they turn away from the audience (their back to the audience), and they read word for word off the slide. Now, this can either mean you don’t know your material and you don’t know your stuff. It means you are using the PowerPoint slide as your teleprompter, which is not what PowerPoint is designed to do.

If it is a complex thing, like a quote or some statistics that you cannot remember, have a copy of that material in front of you. So, rather than turning your back and reading off the slide, you can read off your notes while still looking up and maintaining eye contact periodically with the audience.

5. When your time starts, don’t walk up the front with a thumb drive or a laptop and get the audiovisual person to switch over.

Professional speakers will know that you send your slides in advance so they’re loaded, they can be tested, and they work. It looks really unprofessional when there’s swapping of laptops, loading of new thumb drives and new PowerPoints as these also take time. So send your PowerPoint slides in advance.

At the latest meet the audiovisual person early before the day starts and ask if they can load and test your slides.

6. Getting rid of the shadow puppets.

When you’re data projecting your PowerPoint slides and you stand in front of the projector, what the audience sees is your body, your arms, your head bouncing around, the shadow puppets on the screen rather than your PowerPoint slides.

Now, there’s a simple fix for this. While it is good to stand in the middle of the room, to leave the lectern and to engage the audience, it is not good to do distracting shadow puppets. All you need to do is hit the B button on your laptop. That will bring the PowerPoint slide down (black your slide) so you can move in the front of the room or the data projector and you will not create shadow puppets. When you want your presentation back – just hit B again.

So those are the 6 simple ways to avoid the common mistakes in using PowerPoint that will make you more confident and more effective in your presentation while also engaging your audience at a higher level.

If you want to know more about effective use of PowerPoint and avoiding death by PowerPoint, Peter has 3 public speaking workshops coming up in Perth, Darwin and Bunbury.

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