When public speaking, lecturing, presenting or giving any kind of speech, Powerpoint can be a brilliant tool. However, in most cases it is overused, or used badly. At it’s worst, Powerpoint can distract you from making a brilliant speech.

Many inexperienced public speakers actually build their talk around their powerpoint presentation, and use it as a crutch. Their powerpoint becomes an amateur “autocue” in some ways. This gives the impression that the powerpoint controls the speaker, not the speaker controlling the powerpoint.

Before you begin your public speaking presentation, follow this simple guide to help you decide just how many slides to use.

Does your talk need a Powerpoint at all?

In the vast majority of cases, the answer is “NO”!

You may think you need to spice up your public speaking with images, text, video and slides, but in many cases you do not need it.

Did Martin Luther King Jr. famously say “I have a dream” or did he say “I have an animated bullet-point slide deck”?

Many of the greatest speeches in the world have been just that… speeches… not Powerpoints!

Ask yourself this question “If the electricity goes out, and I am forced to not use a powerpoint, could I still deliver this talk?”

In most cases your answer would be “Yes, but I may have to make a few changes.”

If thats true for you, make those changes and deliver your talk without.

Remove unnecessary slides from your public speaking.

If you have already made a Powerpoint deck, and you are determined to use it, take steps to remove as many slides as you possibly can.

Every time you trigger a slide change, the audiences eyes and attention move away from you, and onto your screen. In that millisecond it takes away vital attention and rapport that you may be building. You loses all personal connection, and it can be very difficult to get it back.

Go through your deck, and remove:

Unnecessary introduction slides. – If you have a slide with the title of your talk on it, your name, email address, or other contact details, remove it. You don’t need it. No one cares about that stuff. If they like your talk, they will find your contact details.

Unnecessary ending slides. – Do you have a slide at the end that just says “Thank you for listening”? Take it out.

Are you using 2 slides when 1 will do? – Is there any way you can say the same message with one slide rather than two? Can you compress your message down to a single point?

Are you using “chapter” slides? – A chapter slide is a slide with a simple heading line of text, that helps separate your talk into different sections. If you have a slide that simply communicates “Now we are moving from point 1 to point 2” remove it. Your audience is smart enough to follow a transition in your public speaking.

Does the slide only have text on it? – If you have a slide that just has text, there is no need to show it! Simply add those lines of text into your script and read them as part of your talk.

Does the slide have generic images on it? – If your slide has any kind of clip-art, generic stock photo, or random image that you found online, delete it. Your audience has a good imagination. Use the audiences imagination instead of showing them boring pictures. Use your public speaking skills to describe what might be on the photo in their imaginations, instead of showing them.

Reduce, reduce, reduce – If your presentation has 20 slides in it, ask yourself what it would look like with only 10 slides. Then, when you have selected your 10 best slides, ask yourself what it would look like with only 5 slides… and then 1 slide. And then none. Always be reducing.

Check the slides you do use are “safe”.

When public speaking, bear in mind that your slides and images may be distributed to conference attendees. Make sure that you own the copyright to any of the images you use.

Try to keep to images that you have taken yourself, or images that a professional photographer has taken for you, and has given the rights for you to use and distribute.

Images provided by your company or organisation should also be OK to use, with the correct permissions.

Don’t ever, ever, ever use something you don’t have the rights to use in your public speaking. After all, it is your talk, why should you use someone else’s material?

Check the slides you do use are “needed”.

Slides should ONLY be used to communicate ideas that are impossible to describe using your own spoken words.

To make sure that your slide is 100% needed, try this:

Imagine that you are trying to explain the contents of your slide to a blind person in the audience. The blind person really wants to understand your talk, and get the most out of it, so it’s super important that he understands exactly what is going on. In most cases, you will find that you can explain the contents of most slides with words to a blind person.

If you can describe it with words, you don’t need slides.

If you think that it is completely impossible to describe your slide to a blind person, then, and only then, should you include it in your presentation.


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