Don''t blame Robert Gaskins and Dennis Austin for those countless hours lost in seemingly endless meetings spent watching someone cycle through a PowerPoint deck. As we mark the 20th anniversary of Gaskin and Austin''s invention -- the first software that made it possible to easily develop visual aids for presentations -- we can reflect on the remarkable inability of most presenters to use it to their advantage.
As you may have guessed, Gaskins and Austin introduced PowerPoint 1.0 about this time back in 1987. They sold it later that year to Microsoft.
By later bundling PowerPoint in Office, Microsoft brought a terrificly simple design tool to virtually every desktop in America. Unfortunately, presenters have been confused about the role of PowerPoint slides ever since.
As we discuss with participants of DPK Public Relations'' Presentation Skills Training sessions, visual aids are intended to support the presenter. They should supplement the content of the presentation, not serve as the content or echo what the speaker says. PowerPoint slides should advance the story being told.
I have cringed as conference presenters have been moved from the middle of the stage to the edge of the stage in order to make room for the PowerPoint. I''ve had keynote presenters explain that participants are there to "watch" their PowerPoint to which they are to serve simply as a soundtrack.
Great. And how exactly do you expect to be remembered?
The best presenters are performers. They understand that they must physically command the attention of the audience by getting their whole body involved. And they must tell stories. People consume and remember information best when it is related in the form of personal stories that are based in emotion.
PowerPoint slides are terrible at doing that, but they can do a great job of supporting presenters.
Here''s a challenge for you: the next time you deliver a presentation, build your PowerPoint slides with just a single image and word on each. The image should capture the essence of what you are relating in that segment of the presentation talking points. The word should drive home your key point.
No audience attends a presentation in order to watch a PowerPoint deck. They are there to listen and learn from you. They are there to be entertained and energized. They are there to be motivated and inspired.