How less on your PowerPoint slides makes it easier for you to communicate your message; Issue #219 September 21, 2010

PowerPoint Tip: How less on your PowerPoint slides makes it easier for you to communicate your message

I was speaking with a new client recently about how they felt “free” when using the type of persuasive visuals that I suggest presenters create and use.  Here is her story and lessons that all presenters can learn.

My client is a senior executive at a large firm and is regularly speaking to fellow executives and staff.  The typical slides used at this organization are packed with text, as are too many slides I see.  Bullet paragraphs detail almost everything the presenter is going to say.  When she presented with these slides, she said she felt fearful.  I wasn’t surprised.

You see, when you have slides packed with information, it puts you in a cage as a presenter.  You have boundaries of what you can say based on what is on the slide.  The audience can see all these points and expects you to cover each point in the order it is on the slide and to the level of detail shown.  These slides set an expectation in the audience that is only fulfilled by reading the slides.  You feel the expectation, and, fearful of disappointing the audience, you comply by reading each slide.  Unfortunately, reading your slides is the most annoying thing you can do according to the audience surveys I have done.

A persuasive visual has a headline that summarizes the point you want to make and a visual that illustrates that point.  With less on the slide, you are free to cover this point in whatever way you need to.  You can tell the story behind the point, go into as much detail as you think is needed, or skip a portion based on audience reaction.  The audience doesn’t have this rigid expectation of what you must say, so they are free to listen and engage.  You end up having more of a conversation with the audience, which is a much more comfortable way to present your message.

When my client tried presenting with persuasive visuals, she felt a freedom she had never felt before.  She thought her presentation went much better than previous presentations, and the positive comments and audience reaction confirmed that it was an effective presentation.  Now I’m getting the chance to share these ideas with her colleagues in a full-day workshop.

How are your slides setting audience expectations that constrain you as a presenter?  Would using persuasive visuals free you to be more natural in your delivery and be a more effective communicator?  If you’d like to learn a five-step method for creating your own persuasive visuals, check out my book The Visual Slide Revolution.