x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

PowerPoint an aid to your presentation, not the centre of it

Sure it's an important tool, but as a presenter you shouldn't allow it to overshadow your own presence.

As a manager, I increasingly notice that people have become indifferent to PowerPoint presentations. They just seem to induce glaze. They’re like a virtual fog. But as a presenter, I consider them to be a clear and concise way to convey information. I also noticed the other day that Iranian officials at nuclear talks in Geneva used PowerPoint to present their ideas for ending the stand-off. So there’s that. What are your thoughts on the proper use of PowerPoint in the workplace? Do you use PowerPoint? JB, Abu Dhabi

Hi JB, what are my thoughts on the correct use of Powerpoint in the workplace? Are you ready?

1. Don’t even touch it until you have ascertained …

a. Your own attitude is in check first

With an olive branch in hand JB, I suggest you check the mindset behind your words: “… as a presenter, I consider Powerpoint to be a clear and concise way to convey information”. It’s time to face the fact that what you think is totally irrelevant. The audience reigns supreme during a presentation, and that is final. If they expect “black” and you give them “red”, they have the right to disengage. Without them, would you exist?

b. A real message does exist

Martin Luther King had no PowerPoint behind him yet had the crowds cheering for more purely because they related to and believed his message. Is your message compelling, with strength at its core? Just like an apple that can grow to look green or red, big or small, lumpy or bumpy, without the seeds in the core, it wouldn’t grow at all. What are the seeds and the core of your message?

c. Your message fits the audience’s need

Ask yourself: how much does the audience need my message? Where will the emotional strings be pulled, persuading them to see themselves as players in your story? Without your message, would they be worse off?

d. A structure or framework is embedded into the content

People will eat from a hand that nourishes them. A structure is a frame that holds content together. If the frame is strong, the gradual release of information will have the audience sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for the next part – even without PowerPoint.

Then and only then should you turn your attention to discovering ways to visually reinforce your message. That’s the functionality of PowerPoint – to reinforce and not become the message. Indeed, if the electricity was to go down, would you still have a message without PowerPoint?

2. Now you can think of PowerPoint and other visual reinforcements to add colour, shape and life to your message.

a. The sleeker the better

Remove the glass, glitz and glamour and simply have one to two key words on each appearance. That may be on a PowerPoint slide yet could it also be on a chart, sung by a choir on the stage – anything at all that draws attention to those key words.

b. Only when needed

If the visual reinforcement is on ONE word, then why leave the visual reinforcement on display when you are on other words? The magic “b” button for PowerPoint does wonders – try it. It will black out the screen once your key point was shown and bring the audience back to you and the real message! Are we hiding behind technology?

c. Simplicity over design

Our lives are constantly pushing aside labels, glossy facades and flashing lights to reach the core. In this case, it would be the heart of the message where real meaning comes from. Keep any visual aid simple, unassumingly undecorated and blatantly simple – to show your message can hold its own alone. I’m sure the last thing the Iranian nuclear team wanted was bells, whistles and explosions throughout any reconciliation efforts.

The doctor’s prescription

In a nutshell, the correct use of PowerPoint or any visual reinforcement presentation tool is to allow it to strengthen key points for greatest impact – thereby its name (from my humble imagination).

Debbie Nicol, the managing director of Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture. Email her at debbie.nicol@businessenmotion.com for the Workplace Doctor’s advice on your challenges, whether as an employee, a manager or a colleague.