Nov 17, 2008

PowerPoint slides tips for presenters

At the Toastmasters District 61 conference this weekend, I presented a workshop entitled "Breathe New Life Into Your PowerPoint Slides." The goal of the workshop was to explain to the attendees how to avoid "Death By PowerPoint" simply by changing a few things about the way they created their slides.

I presented a lot of the concepts that Garr Reynolds discusses in his Presentation Zen blog. My PowerPoint slides have been greatly influenced by the information on his site. Judging from the reaction I received, I believe that many of the attendees will change their views about the function and the design of their slides as a result of attending this workshop.

A few of the elements I focused on:
  • Death by PowerPoint is never the fault of PowerPoint it's always the presenter's fault. Sorry.
  • Slides are there to aid the presentation, they are not the presentation. When building a PowerPoint "presentation" the slides are only part of the picture (no pun intended). The most important part of the presentation consists of the information you provide and the way you deliver it.
  • The slides are primarily for the benefit of the audience, not the speaker. Yet most of the time, they are built with the speaker in mind.
One thing I learned: you cannot over-check your technology. Before the start of the workshop, I checked everything inside and out, making sure it all worked. I did this because I don't begin by showing the title slide on the screen as people walk in. At the start of my presentation, the screen is blank because the first slide is designed to elicit laughter. Well, it did, but not the way I expected it.

For some reason, when I put up the very first slide, nothing was displayed on the screen. My first joke fell flat, and I had to fiddle with my computer to get it going again. It took about 10 seconds, but it was long enough for someone in the audience to say "It kills me when that happens." I'm not sure if the comment was directed at me, or if she was sharing her past experience...

I got things back on track quickly, although the image was only projected on the screen: my laptop's display was blank, which forced me to turn my head constantly to make sure the audience was looking at the right slide during the speech. Not as seamless as I wanted it to be, but it worked out very well in the end.

It's all about proper preparation, putting the audience first, and not depending on the tool to deliver your message.


  1. Laurent, I attended your presentation on PowerPoint. It was among the best workshops I ever attended at a Toastmasters conference and was THE best presentation I've seen on PowerPoint. Some was a confirmation and much of it was new to me.

    Your presentation is a must for any organization that uses PowerPoint! There ARE just a few, of course. When organizations are looking for market differentiators to drive buying decisions in what are now perceived as difficult times and capital restraint, the skills you shared could contribute to making that decision, "YES!"

  2. Craig,

    The ranks of the PPT-aholics have been culled to just a few, now, just a few...

    Thank you for your comments.