« 6. Why I'm angry about death by PowerPoint »

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute. She is the author of "Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking" and is one of only 800 people in the world with the highest level of accreditation in the professional speaking industry - CSP - Certified Speaking Professional.

I just don't get it. What excuse can there possibly be for death by PowerPoint? If you care about your audience and their emotions, then surely it is not emotionally intelligent to bore or irritate them with your PowerPoints, is it? I am sure you know what I mean.

Speaking without PowerPoints is also an option People give PowerPoint presentations so badly that the audience can't even read what they say.

Worse still they present 60 PowerPoints all looking identical, e.g. with a blue background, a hard to read logo at the bottom and 7 bullet points per slide, all in a small font size.

And then they read each slide aloud, word for word.

There is no excuse for poor PowerPoint presentations. They insult and frustrate the audience and undermine the presenter's authority and credibility.

How much emotional intelligence does a public speaker need to make their PowerPoints interesting? Not much.

Even if you are scared of public speaking the least you can do is design interesting, simple and easy-to-read PowerPoint presentations, surely?

Why do I sound so irritated? Because time and time again I, and others, go to presentations by well paid, highly educated and intelligent professional people and are shown boring, illegible and hard-to-understand PowerPoint presentations.

I have heard others complaining about them, and been to a number of such presentations recently, hence the article.

Each presenter owes it to their audience to give them good quality PowerPoint presentations. There is nothing wrong with PowerPoint presentations, they can bring a speech alive in a visual way, and add impact. There is a lot wrong with a bad PowerPoint presentation.

Public speakers are there to present to an audience, not to themselves. They are not there to satisfy their own whims, to mutter to themselves or to send an audience to sleep. 

Engaging your audience is vital and requires emotional intelligence skills. You need the same emotional intelligence skills supporting the design of your PowerPoint slides. They are, after all, there to engage your audience, they are not just a technical feast.

How can you make your PowerPoint presentations of value to the audience and still impress at the same time? It is actually quite simple.

Five tips on improving PowerPoint presentations

There are many ways to use PowerPoints well. In my public speaking master-class I provide a thorough checklist that you can use against any presentation to double check it is right on target. Here are five of the many tips covered.

Want to improve your confidence as a public speaker so your audience wants to listen to you? Book into our public speaking development package

PowerPoint presentations tip 1: Size does matter

If you are creating a PowerPoint presentation the first thing to do is to set your font size large enough. There are all sorts of sizes mentioned as being okay but most of them are still too small. If in doubt make it larger. Yes, and probably even larger again.

How big is large enough? A font size of 40. Yes 40. I use size 40 - 70 on my PowerPoint presentations. Better to be too big than too small. Yes, despite so many using it, size 24 and 28 are too small.

If you are sitting there trying to squeeze words on and having to reduce the font size to do this you have too many words.

Don't squeeze material on, it means that the audience won't be able to read it. What is the point of that? It is so very frustrating to hear a presenter say, "You probably can't read that at the back". The audience in unison thinks, "Why put it on then, stupid?".

By the way, flow diagrams, charts and graphs are notoriously hard to read on PowerPoint presentations.

It doesn't take much emotional intelligence to work out that if the audience can't read your PowerPoints they are going to get frustrated, does it?

Make your PowerPoint presentations very easy for the audience to read, that is who they are for, after all.

PowerPoint presentations tip 2: They're not speech notes

Let's clear this up straightaway. Many presenters treat their PowerPoint presentations as if they are their speech notes. They aren't. PowerPoint presentations are not for your sake, as the presenter, at all. Who are they for? The audience.

PowerPoint presentations are there purely for the audience to get your key points and your main message. They are there to provide the audience with a visual representation of your main message(s). That's it. Choose everything that goes on your slides with this in mind.

Make your PowerPoints for your audience. Your speech notes are something quite separate.

Work out another way to remember what you are hoping to say. I think public speakers who use their PowerPoints as speech notes are probably anxious about speaking and use their PowerPoints as a crutch.

Instead, apply your emotional intelligence skills to managing your anxiety in a more constructive way that does not negatively impact on the audience, because that is not emotionally intelligent.

If it makes things worse for the audience, then in the end it makes things worse for you and your anxiety. 

There are many emotional intelligence techniques for managing anxiety that we cover in other articles and in our E-book on "Overcome the fear of public speaking".

PowerPoint presentations tip 3. Variety beats death

Once your slides are easy to read, vary them. Don't just have slide after slide of bullet points. Instead have a variety of different displays and content.

For example, you might have a key point written out word-for-word, followed by a poem, a statistic, a question, a row of bullet points, a cartoon, a diagram, then a second key point written out word-for-word, a photograph, a quote, and so on.

These can all help to reinforce and expand your key points.

Variety keeps people engaged. It keeps them wondering what is next. Predictability sends people to sleep. Even if you have a very dry topic to present, your PowerPoints still need to captivate the audience. A dry topic is no excuse.

Apply your emotional intelligence skills to choosing your PowerPoints and ask yourself, will they find this boring or will this capture their imagination?

Being able to predict people's emotional responses is all part of emotional intelligence and a key competency on the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso emotional intelligence model. 

Want to engage your audience more easily and make your presentations more interesting? Book into our public speaking development package.

PowerPoint presentations tip 4: Relevance, relevance, relevance

I was coaching someone recently in giving a speech and he was nervous. He didn't like all the attention being placed on him. I sympathised. And then I reassured him: "All the attention isn't on you, the audience are thinking about themselves!"

I can demonstrate this every time I speak. If you ask the people in the audience, "Were you worried about me when you were coming here today?" hardly anyone ever says, "Yes, I was hoping you were feeling okay and had a good night's sleep." In contrast, they say they have been thinking about themselves!

The value in knowing this is that it can help reduce your self-consciousness as a speaker. It also gives your presentation focus. Who should you be concentrating on? The audience of course! They are the most important part of your presentation. Everything you need to do should be relevant for them and this includes your PowerPoint presentations.

When you select which PowerPoints to include, always ask, "Will this help the audience?", or "Will the audience be interested in this?", or "Will this give the audience relevant information that they can use?"

Do not include slides just because they are your favourite flow diagrams, or they represent years of research, or to show how much you know. Only include the ones that are most relevant for the audience.

Use your emotional intelligence to manage the emotions of the audience in your favour. Do not turn them off your content.

PowerPoint presentations tip 5: Receive coaching

Even if you don't know how to put a good PowerPoint presentation together, there is no excuse for not learning how to do it.

Presenting comes with a responsibility to the audience to deliver your information in a good way for them. That is being emotionally responsible and that is all part of emotional intelligence.

There are plenty of people who do know how to make good PowerPoint presentations. Find them, and get yourself a good coach or mentor. Someone, such as myself, can help you make up your PowerPoint presentations so you learn what to do. Sure, it may cost you money but it beats embarrassing yourself in front of an audience, and it could help you advance your career. Find the people to help you.

How to improve your public speaking now.

Can you afford to have you or your team unable to engage their audiences? No! Organisations need to be represented by engaging speakers in order to get their message across as swiftly and effectively as possible. This applies to you if you are an executive or a manager too - do not bore your employees, your stakeholders or your board. We have a number of options to help you:

  1. Book into our public speaking development package.
  2. There is a definitive guide: "The beginners guide to being a brilliant MC".
  3. Read the book "Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking".

For more details or to make a booking e-mail us now or pick up the phone and call us.