I just finished putting together a presentation for one of our managers. Frankly, it never fails to frustrate me when I do a PowerPoint for one of my gang. They use a gazillion words on their slides and then stand in front of the crowd and read from them verbatim.
Is there an issue with that? Well, yes, because if you know anything about how the mind works, you know that people can either read or they can listen, but they can’t do both. And if my manager has a bunch of words on his slide, his audience is ignoring him and just reading the slides. Probably not the effect he was looking for.
Problem is, none of my managers are very comfortable in front of crowds. They need those words up on the screen as a crutch. I know that if I start hacking words off their slides in an effort to make them more visual, they’re going to go from “being ignored by their audience” to “looking really, really dumb.”
We can’t have that, but we can make the slides a little better by making a couple of adjustments and meet him half way. Here are a couple of helpful hints:
Adjust imported spreadsheets – See that spreadsheet I’ve pictured here? More than once, my manager has insisted that we import a spreadsheet that looks just like this one, without any lines eliminated, so that he can “talk to it.” What point is being made when you have the image of a spreadsheet in front of you and a million numbers so miniscule you cannot see them? I work with my manager to hone in on what portion he’ll be addressing, and then crop the spreadsheet so that the audience sees a smaller set of meaningful numbers.
Edit sentences down to words – If you have a bullet point that says “please go to the basement in the event of a tornado warning,” you might be able to shorten it down to “tornado warning” or “basement.” Look for opportunities to cut as many words as you can.
Make sure each slide only touches on one subject – Your manager may be one of those that thinks he wins if he has only two slides, and he’ll jam six different subjects onto them to prove that he’ll be quick. Putting each subject onto one slide will help him drive home ideas to his audience, because they’ll see less on each slide.
Use pictures for everything – Even if you can’t convince your manager to cut down on his words, you can probably add a picture for the subject matter of each slide. If you’re talking about dog food, you can use a cute picture of a bulldog puppy asleep in his food bowl. When your manager is going through a laundry list of points about dog food, at least you’ll have one image you can leave in the audience’s minds that pulls all the ideas together. Visual recall is superior to verbal recall. It’s why we had hieroglyphs before we had words.
Convince your manager to draw as he presents – I’m not talking about sketches the likes of Da Vinci’s and Van Gogh’s. Anything that your manager can do on screen, whether it’s adding a stick figure or circling an important number, will further drive home the message to his audience. Remember, visual learning is more powerful than verbal learning, so audience members will remember that red circle around the number twelve and take something more away from the talk than they might have otherwise.
Almost all managers are required to speak in front of groups at one time or another, and there are more people uncomfortable with that idea than not. Maybe your manager will never be Steve Jobs on stage, but these helpful hints can make your manager more “visual” with his presentation and help him connect meaningfully with his audience, which will hopefully motivate and direct employees to a bigger bottom line!
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