You may – or may not – recall the 80s. Remembered for over-the-top hair, fashions including leg warmers and parachute pants, and fads like Garbage Pail Kids and Cabbage Patch Dolls, it was also the birth of PowerPoint. Launched in 1987 (the same year The Lost Boys debuted the fantastic hairdos featured above), PowerPoint revolutionized the way we present. Over the subsequent decades, it has continued to mature and improve, allowing for more creativity and becoming much more user-friendly.
Even if you weren’t around in the ’80s, your presentations may still be stuck in the past, distracting your audience from your message and reducing its effectiveness. Here are seven common issues and tips to modernize your message:
1. “Let me tell you about my company…” Starting off with a company overview slide is the equivalent of showing up in a Members Only jacket and legwarmers. Overview slides made sense years ago when buyers lacked easy access to information on vendors. That is no longer true, making them as dated as the Sony Walkman. Starting with this slide wastes your viewer’s time and results in a quick tune-out.
If you must include an overview, start with information that is of the most value to your customer. That may be an outcome, insight, or something you found out in discovery, but it is never how many offices you have or how long you’ve been in business!
Apply a features/benefits test to the information. If it’s a feature (i.e., we have 1,000 employees) tie it to a benefit (which makes us available 24/7 to address your needs.)
Finally, place your overview at the end, have it available as a leave-behind (or best of all, just dump it, no one will miss it!)
2. Saving the best for last. Your audience is busy, so get to the point fast. Don’t waste their time explaining the minutiae of your process. A more modern and thoughtful approach is to start with the end result – what benefit are you offering? What problem are you solving? – and then support that with appropriate details.
3. Long monologues. Listening to someone talk nonstop for more than five minutes went out with huge permed hair. Interaction is the name of the game now – even if we can’t yet physically do so. Don’t create fake interaction by throwing out the occasional “any questions?” Promote a conversation that keeps buyers engaged by breaking your presentation into two to three-minute content chunks based on a topic, feature, or the value your information, product, or service provides to your listener.
4. Death by bullet points. This is an oldie but goodie. Present no more than five bullet points (it’s the most we’ll remember) with six to eight words each. If you have more, break them up into individual slides or use a handout. Even better, eliminate bullet points and present just one idea per slide, accompanied by a good supporting graphic or memorable image.
5. Lazy endings. When PowerPoint first came out, presenters frequently included an obligatory last slide with a giant question mark, or “Thank you!” Not only does this dated technique end your message on a flat note, it also squanders a golden opportunity to reinforce your key message. End where you started, with your key idea, and summarize the three to five points you most want them to remember.
6. The one-size-fits-all approach. Today’s viewers expect a customized experience, whether they’re investing in a pair of shoes, a car, or a complex solution. In this “I’ll have it my way” market, generic presentations just don’t work. Tailor yours in meaningful ways for each audience to avoid feeling out of touch.
7. Reading directly from your slides. Modern presenters integrate their deck smoothly and naturally into their delivery. Slides support their message, they don’t serve as speaker notes or convey an overwhelming amount of information to an audience that is used to small, quick bites of information. Get your nose out of your notes and start establishing a personal connection with your audience–wherever they may be!