Do your part: Prevent PowerPoint abuse

You've just made a presentation before a group of company employees. And maybe, despite your lovingly crafted PowerPoint presentation and your honey-voiced delivery, the group doesn't appear to be enthusiastically receptive. If those attending are showing signs of discomfort--yawning, shifting in their chairs, weeping, forming suicide pacts--then you need to improve your presentation skills.

Let's start with that PowerPoint thing. I would venture to say that most people misuse PowerPoint. A lot of folks put their presentations word for word on the slides, separated by heads and subheads, like those research paper outlines we used to have to do in school. Then they read the text directly from the slides. Unless they're three years old and haven't yet mastered the art of phonics, your audience members can read the words themselves, and they would probably prefer to do so at their desk while eating a bag of Funyuns. If they have the slides, why do they need you? So remember:

  • In the slide, just list the main points and then fill in the details in your delivery. You can read the main points, but summarize or paraphrase the rest as you go along.
  • Use slides for visuals such as charts and graphs. It drives home any statistical point you're making. And you don't want to find yourself verbally describing a bubble chart.

As for your speaking skills, it's true that not everyone is a wonderfully charismatic orator. But you don't have to be. You're not trying to get your staff to rise up and stamp out tyranny in our lifetime; you're just trying to pass on some business information. Here are a few pointers:

  • Stick to the point and don't digress. Don't ramble, as in, "I got this data last Tuesday, or was it Wednesday? No, it was Tuesday because that's the day I went to the dentist. Or did I see the dentist Wednesday? I'm not sure. It was either Tuesday or Wednesday…" Because frankly, who cares? You keep that up and people are going to confess to kidnapping the Lindbergh baby.
  • Use attendees' names in your examples if you can. Nothing jolts someone out of a grocery list reverie than hearing their name spoken.
  • Use (but don't overuse) anecdotes and examples from another topic area. I attended a presentation where someone compared an OS's anti-spyware capabilities to car anti-theft features. It really clarified his topic.
  • Keep the presentation under an hour (counting questions at the end), or the approximate length of an episode of CSI. No matter how interested the audience, we're all used to getting our information quickly. If someone has grown a beard during your presentation, it's a bad sign.


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.


You and my wife are the only two people left on the planet that eat Funyuns.


Using all of the tips given, please actually go through test runs of your presentation. Make sure your thoughts and words actually support the topic progressively. No Fumbling...Anticipate questions and have answers regarding the contents of each slide. If you're presenting numerical data, analysis etc...have your sources and methods of collection and calculation completely documented...believe me...someone will ask!


My field of work is life sciences. Many of the presentations include slides that contain tables of data. Almost invariably, when given a laser pointer, the speaker will proceed to highlight data or words by using the pointer as if it were chalk writing on a blackboard, i.e. waving it back and forth under the data as if to underline it, or rapidly and repeatedly circling the item of interest. Their intent is to underline or circle using a tool that is not able to do so. What it does is give eye strain to the viewer. I am at the point that when the presenter begins this behavior, I have to look away. A laser pointer should do just that: Point. Point to the data, and then stop.

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