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YOU drive the presentation. Not PowerPoint.

The biggest issue I run into in training others in PowerPoint is that people don't realize that PowerPoint is there ONLY to assist you in making a presentation. YOU are the one with the knowledge; PowerPoint is just there to help you organize that knowledge.

The real issue in making presentations is your connection to the audience. So don't make the mistake that knowing PowerPoint better will make that connection better. THAT has to come from YOU. Once you come to terms with that knowledge, you'll really begin to see the limitations of PowerPoint - if you don't work around those limitations, PowerPoint will get in your way. There is, for example, an e-book out there entitled "How PowerPoint Makes You Stupid." Because if we don't use PowerPoint rightly, we can't be anything but, no matter how well we know the program. So here's what your presentation skills must encompass apart from PowerPoint:

(1) You must have information to present besides what's on the slides. If you are reading the content of the slides - doing what the audience members can do for themselves - they may rightly ask themselves what on Earth they need YOU for.

(2) You must be able to engage your audience in active participation, because as any undergraduate teaching major can tell you, people don't learn from what they hear (or from what they read) alone. You must work in three dimensions, and PowerPoint can't help you there.

(3) You must emphasize the learning that's going on in your presentation by writing something down. Otherwise...

What gets left out is the narrative between the bullets, which would tell us who's going to do what and how we're going to achieve the generic goals on the list. - Edward Tufte, author of "Beautiful Evidence"

Even if all you do is make a list on a legal pad, as Seth Godin suggests, that's significant because...

The act of writing is a verb, it’s the process of putting it on the page that underlines what you’ve said, that highlights the moment. - Seth Godin

Just make sure that as you write you're not turning away from or ignoring the audience.

Now, here are some bad habits which PowerPoint users will sometimes have, and which you must be careful not to develop:

(1) They use default settings. Especially of chart colors, which are the worst choices imaginable. Let your charts use the brightest colors possible - let your information POP.

(2) They use trickery like moving text on the screen, or needlessly colorful backgrounds, or irrelevant embedded videos or pictures. Those things are worse than the bright red fly on the wall you get from a laser pointer. Only use images, videos, and sounds that help you get to the point faster and bring it across stronger.

(3) They use too much text. Limit each chart to
- one main point
- three bullets (when bullets are used), each with as few words as you can get away with and still communicate significant information
- 10-20 charts at most

And test those charts for readability before you release them. One fast test is to take a printed copy of a chart, set it on the floor, and try to read it while standing, looking down at it. That is similar to the view your audience members get from the back row.

PowerPoint is like being trapped in the style of early Egyptian flatland cartoons rather than using the more effective tools of Renaissance visual representation. - Edward Tufte, "Beautiful Evidence"

You know what you're presenting, and you know it better than anyone else in the room. Don't allow PowerPoint to overshadow you with a flatland cartoon.

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