Business presentations with PowerPoint
Just over six months ago Karl Kildén contacted me for an interview for their thesis: “Critical success factors for business presentations with PowerPoint”. And now the report is finally finished. You can download the entire report here: LINK. The following is my interview in the report:
1a) PowerPoint and similar programs are being used for presentations at different organizations. What do you think of the use of it in general?
That it is counterproductive. The craving to go to meetings and presentations where PowerPoint consistently is being used wrongly is way too low. The amount of information that is being put into the PowerPoint presentation makes the audience lose focus and concentration. The effect of this is that they do not have the best decision data when they make their decisions. After the space shuttle crashed in the United States a couple of years ago, this was seen as one of the problems.
1b) What are the advantages and disadvantages of PowerPoint or similar is standard for a business?
Advantages: Most people know software for visual reinforcement. Cons: It is being used incorrectly as a visual reinforcement. It becomes a security blanket, a tool for presenters and not for the listener.
1c) PowerPoint has also been criticized because it frames our trains of thought to be focused on presenting and that you automatically are thinking of slides with bullet points. Do you think there is any truth in this?
Absolutely. I hear quite horrendous stories from the companies and workers I meet. The number of slides is totally, completely irrelevant to the presentation. The only thing that matters is the amount of objects per slide. That’s where the limits of our perception appears.
2a) What do you think about PowerPoint and similar programs in its standard version with a header followed by bullets?
It is okay in its function. Words in bullet form help the brain in both learning and understanding. However, don’t mix sentences and bullets – it just creates madness! Put that information in the note section instead!
2b) What do you think you should consider when making a presentation in such a program?
Start by first building the presentation in the structure of a common script in Word and then use PowerPoint to enhance and clarify certain parts of the presentation. Never begin building your presentation in PowerPoint. Start analogy instead.
3a) Do you think it is a common problem that the presentations are boring, uninspired, or otherwise fail to capture their audience?
Yes, but it has above all with people’s presentation skills to do and not with PowerPoint. However, their wrong-doing of PowerPoint doesn’t make it easier for them.
3b) What should you think about to avoid this?
Ask yourself: what do I think is an interesting presentation? And do you think is good? Don’t follow the flock of sheep over an inevitable precipice. And take a course in Presentation Skills. A presentation is about learning the technique of body language, voice and the approach. With that knowledge we can with or without PowerPoint, make good presentations.
4a) Do you think the presentations within companies are sufficiently educational and tailored to the audience?
Yes, the organizations which train their employees within presentation skills. Those who do not or do not take it seriously: no. If companies would be equally irresponsible in their sales as they are in their presentation and communication process, an absolute majority would go bankrupt.
4b) What should you consider so that the presentation will be educational and is easy to understand to the audience?
Use PowerPoint to reinforce or clarify – not to confuse. That means you will have a maximum of six objects per slide because that’s what your audience perception can cope with. Use pictures to reinforce, and if you use charts or heavy process diagrams in PowerPoint, break them down to the smallest possible elements. Question every detail by asking “Is it functional” and if it isn’t, delete it. In regards to the current “presentation” that your question relates to is about so much more than just PowerPoint. The three best and quickest advice I can give are these:
1. Ask yourself why you are holding this presentation, then define your message and break down the content into such a concrete and concise form that is possible.
2. Makes the contents of your presentation relevant and interesting for the audience.
3. We make the majority of our decisions depending on a feeling; therefore plant a feeling with the audience.
5a) If a business uses a guide/method that employees can use when creating presentations, what do you think this guide/method should focus on primarily?
That the recipient’s needs and the presenter’s goal should be defined according to the three presentation types: remember, inspire and persuade. And the presentation guide should help the presenter to achieve this.
6a) How important do you consider the specific introductions are, and do you use rhetorical concepts to categorize various such?
The fundamental premise that a human/receiver is to learn new things, be convinced or inspired is that they are focused. They are focused, when they think the presentation is relevant or interesting. Within there are specific introductions which has a huge responsibility, i.e. to build that interest and inspiration.
6b) PowerPoint etc. are visual aids to an oral presentation. Do you think it was a general low level of knowledge within the rhetoric that caused the statement “Death by PowerPoint\” to be coined?
Yes, that’s probably part of the truth. We learn from the flock leader, that said: it is enough that our leaders have low expertise in presentation skills, or rhetoric, and thus start to hide behind PowerPoint. We are usually quick to give up regardless of the intelligence in the outcome. However, somewhere along the line, our stress factor at work has also contributed to worse PowerPoint presentations. Basically it’s about ignorance. If all “meeting killers\” had a basic knowledge of how remarkably limited our brain is in taking in firm impressions they would never even have looked at PowerPoint.
6c) How do you connect the ancient notions of Ethos, Pathos and Logos to modern presentations and PowerPoint specifically? (Ethos is one’s personal character, pathos is directed to the audience’s emotions and Logos is to persuade with facts and logic).
They are the three fundamental corner stone’s. As a general rule; it can be said that all presentations shall include all three. Off course, there are exceptions but for all meeting leaders and executives, the basic rule is that all 3 should be there. Unfortunately, Ethos is often delivered weakly because the presenter did not think of themselves as a good presenter. Therefore an even weaker Pathos is delivered because it then challenges the presenter to actually present … In contrast, most managers are really good at delivering Logos in matchless overdoses. But I would point out that it gets better, I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that I sometimes actually feel that my persistent crusade for almost three years is beginning to take effect : )
7) Do you have any thoughts on how much time you have to create a presentation and how it affects the outcome?
If you do not have the technology per se as a presenter it will affect the amount of time a whole bunch. The better presenter you are, the shorter time you’ll need and vice versa. And now since most are fairly mediocre presenters, a lot of time will be needed to get close to a good result. Of course, it is not time that is given, so a mediocre presenter often gets too little time in relation to their knowledge, resulting in rather ineffective presentations. Knowledge is the key – because you have a chance to training, if you only want it… but who really wants to do something we aren’t good at … and how good do we really get when we are forced to do things we aren’t good at…?
July 18th, 2011