How effective is your presentation support material?

You probably use Powerpoint as part of your presentations. Most people do and I use it too (as well as Keynote on my Mac).

Firstly some history…did you know that PowerPoint was originally known as Presenter and was developed in 1984 for use on the Macintosh? Microsoft purchased the company that developed the application in 1987, by which time the application had been renamed PowerPoint.

I think that I started to use it under Windows 3.1 (admission – I remember seeing the diskettes for that version of Office in a box in the garage only recently).

I would have either created and/or used perhaps a thousand “PowerPoints” over that time, more if you count altered/updated/customised presentations. (Isn’t it interesting that the product name has come to describe what you do as well as how you do it. “Do you have a powerpoint for that?” “I can create a powerpoint for you.”)

There is no doubt that PowerPoint has developed quite a bit over the years. Today, it contains so many functions, gadgets, styles, animations, fonts etc that it truly is “a solution looking for a problem”. My children used PowerPoint to develop slideshows when they were in primary school. Surely, there would be few people under the age of 30 who would not have heard of, or used, PowerPoint.

Mix lots of people who know how to use the application and lots of functionality in the product together and you get … confusion. Confusion of message caused by lack of clarity in the delivery of that message. By this I mean that we have a propensity to take a simple message and make it into a feature packed, animated, multi- font, sound enabled multi-slide package for delivery.

Do you really need a 75 slide presentation for a meeting? A 10 slide corporate overview at the start of the presentation? A 1+Gb file size? Not likely and definitely not often.

Clarity of message comes from keeping it simple. Simple messages delivered in a simple way so that the audience does not have to work hard to identify what you are attempting to say.

Fewer words, large font, images – these are the things that enhance clarity.

In future posts I will discuss how you deliver clear messages with a complex tool.

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