How much detail should be included on PowerPoint slides? Part 2

August 9, 2011 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Preparation

Part 2 of 2

greg 200x300This is part 2 of an article I posted last week about rethinking how much information you put in your presentation slides. As I said, anyone who champions rules about these things is missing the big picture and leading you astray.

Instead, we need to take a fresh look. I used the GPS metaphor to describe how to rethink your slides so that they help you move your audience from point A to point B.

But as I pointed out, this metaphor only works if you’ve crafted your slides well. Here’s what I meant.

As you prepare:
The first step is to analyze your audience and figure out what they already know about your topic. Think of this as the place you’ll pick them up (Point A). Next select your destination. Where do you want to take them? That’s Point B.

Next figure out your agenda. This will be the route you’ll take. Just like a GPS, you’ll have options. Will you take the freeway, which is a relatively easy trip with just a few turns and requires limited guidance? Or, will you take the street-level route, which will require more detailed guidance?

Whichever option you choose, make sure your trip is logically mapped out and draft your agenda to lead the way.

Once your agenda is crafted, it’s time to work on the body slides. Begin with one body slide per agenda point. Label it using the language you used in the agenda. In other words if your agenda point #1 is “Market Share is Growing,” body slide #1 should be titled the same. As you develop the presentation, you’ll probably need to add more supporting slides, but this is a good start.

So now you’ve got a plan. Your agenda and slide titles mark the milestones for your trip. It’s time to fill in the details. Use words and images that help you stay on track. For example, the GPS doesn’t tell you to “go north.” Instead it recognizes exactly where you are and gives you directions from that point of view: “Turn right.” That’s much more useful when you’re in unfamiliar territory. The content of your slides should be just as easy to follow.

Add just enough detail to support you as you manage the conversation. Remember how Allison Rossett  (from part 1) said that the GPS makes you smarter than you are where and when you need the information? The same is true here. You don’t have to memorize a script or any section of your presentation; you just need to be able to rely on your slides to lead you from point to point.

The best laid plans…
Now, before you present you need to re-familiarize yourself with your plan. If you’re like me, you created your slides a week ago and by the time you have to present you’ve forgotten the logic behind them.

I recommend paging through your slide deck looking only at the slide titles. Do they spark the right thoughts? Does the route you’ve chose still seem logical? If not, fiddle with them until they do. (If you do make changes, make sure you change the agenda to match.)

Next, go through the deck again. This time look at everything on the slides. Again, ask yourself if what’s there is sparking the right thoughts. If not, change them until they do.

Trust the GPS
So now you’re ready to meet up with your audience and drive the conversation from A to B. Trust your slides to lead you. You don’t have to say things perfectly or remember every single data point. Your slides are there to remind you of those things. Remember, they’ll make you smarter than you are, but only if you trust them.

Keep in mind that the presentation is a conversation. This means it might get a little messy. You’re going to say things you didn’t plan, your thoughts will lead you in new directions and you’ll go down unfamiliar streets. Audience members will take you on a detour by asking questions. All of these things are OK and are expected. Think of it as taking the scenic route. When it’s time to get back on track, simply rely on your slides to guide you.

Presenting doesn’t have to be such hard work.
By following these recommendations (instead of following arbitrary rules about numbers of bullets), you won’t have to work so hard when you present. Your slides will keep you on track and help you manage the detours. In other words, they’ll be there when you need them and make you smarter than you are.

by Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President, Turpin Communication

How much detail should be included on PowerPoint slides? Part 1

August 1, 2011 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Preparation

Part 1 of 2

greg 200x300We get questions like this and others about numbers of bullets, numbers of words per bullet and so on quite often in our presentation skills workshops.

There is no easy answer. And anyone who champions rules about these things is missing the big picture and leading you astray.

If you think of presentations as Orderly Conversations as we do, you’ll recognize that the slides are simply there to:

  • Provide information that listeners need
  • Serve as your notes
  • Provide structure to the conversation
  • Keep you on track

How much information you’ll need on your slides should be dictated by your listeners’ needs and how much guidance you think you’ll need once the presentation begins.

I recently attended a conference where Allison Rossett, a thought leader in the informal learning movement, was talking about using a GPS in her car. She said that GPS devices make us smarter than we are because they provide us with the exact information we need when and where we need it. We don’t need to memorize the exact route from A to B. Instead we can rely on the GPS – a sort of modern-day cheat sheet – to keep us on track and get us to our destination.

Ms. Rossett was applying this metaphor to informal learning, but it can be applied to presenting as well.

Getting from point A to point B
If you think about presenting as moving a conversation from point A to point B, the metaphor makes sense. Let’s layer into the metaphor some high-stress traffic, a few streets you’ve never traveled and a detour. When we do that, the traffic represents the pressure you feel during the presentation. The unfamiliar streets are the unknown elements of the conversation and the questions are the detour.

So in this high-pressure, high-stakes presentation environment, what’s your GPS?

Your slides.

They are there to guide you, remind you of what you want to say, keep you on track, and bring you back after the detours

But, and this is a big but, your slides will only function as a GPS if you craft them the right way. I’ll talk more about how to do that in my next post.

by Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President, Turpin Communication

Hands on Hips — OK or Not?

November 4, 2010 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked

Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President of Turpin Communication

Discussions on LinkedIn often revolve around public speaking.  This one in particular caught my eye.  It was posted in the Public Speaking Network group and is about whether or not it’s OK to put your hands on your hips.

The gist of the question was this:
Is it wrong for speakers to place their hands on their hips?  I believe it’s a negative gesture and perhaps somewhat condescending.  Any thoughts?

Answers ranged from “yes, it’s the worst thing you can do” to “who cares where you put your hands.”

My response:

As a presentation/facilitation skills trainer & coach, I get questions about gestures all the time.

The answer is not so much what’s “right,” but what’s natural for the speaker.  Manufactured gestures and stances look phony.  Audiences don’t want phony.  They want real.

But how to become comfortable enough so that the real you comes out?

The solution is to engage your listeners in a thoughtful two-way conversation.  Look them in the eyes.  Look for their reactions.  Respond accordingly.   Soon enough you won’t be thinking about the placement of your hands, you’ll be thinking about the conversation.

All that said, there are times when certain gestures can convey the wrong thing.  Hands on hips is one of those, so is hands in pockets.  But you need to start with engagement, which will provide you with awareness so that you’ll know instinctively what’s appropriate and how to adapt to any given situation.

We use this slogan in our workshops and it really resonates with business people.

Find your focus.  Be yourself.  Only better.

What are your thoughts?  Post them below.

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by Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication