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PowerPoint Done Right: Audience Engagement

Are you putting people to sleep?

Even if your audience doesn’t look like this image from malias while you’re speaking, there may be signs that the audience isn’t engaged. Some of it is their issue, for sure. But some of it rests with the presenter. So for the first tip I want to start with my pet peeve. Rather than state it, I want to ask it in the form of a question. Here it goes:

If people have invited you and gathered themselves to listen to material that you *say* you believe is important, isn’t it important enough to know without reading notes?

Here’s how I think about it. If I asked you to tell me about the birth of your child (assuming you have one), would you need a 10 slide deck to highlight everything you need to tell me? Would you need typewritten notes to look back to in order to share? What if the topic were your wedding (assuming you are married)? Would you need index cards to help you remember it?

The answer is not likely.

But for some reason, when presenters get up to talk, and especially when they get up to talk about something that they’re saying is really important and that the audience really needs to know (and/or learn), they don’t know the material well enough to share their thoughts without reading it.

Now, I’m not talking about having an outline, or having a particular quote from someone, or looking at a graph of data that you need to highlight. I’m talking about your main points.

If you have so many main points that you can’t just rattle them off, you have too many.

If I were telling you about my wedding, I’d mention getting ready, the photographer, the ceremony and message that morning, more photos and the reception. I’d also tell you about the dinner that night, the friends we saw later in the evening and the funny story about my wife yelling at people the next morning. And if I wanted to make a point about significant events I’d tell you that my special day was made more special by the Marriott staff who knew me by name even though they came on their shift after I was already married. Wow!

But I’d be able to talk about it for 20, 30, even 60 minutes without notes.

Now, if you care that much about your material, if it’s that important, shouldn’t you be able to share your insights without paper?

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