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Conference Speakers: 8 Tips For Avoiding Death By PowerPoint Syndrome

The TWTRCON NY 10 audience - NOT a victim of boring PowerPointA few weeks back I posted advice for conference organizers about how to keep an event audience awake.  Now it’s time to provide some tips for speakers, who far too often cause the dreaded “Death by PowerPoint.”

In the spirit of PowerPoint, here are some bullet points of advice:

1. Start your preparations early 

— and practice, practice, practice.  Your audience expects a lot from you, so you need to give them your best. Think long and hard about your presentation, leave enough time to prepare and then practice giving it several times so it’s natural, easy, smooth and doesn’t go over your time limit.

2. Keep it short.

Many years ago, Guy Kawasaki developed the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint: a PowerPoint presentation should have only 10 slides, last no more than 20 minutes, and contain no font smaller than 30 points. That was for pitches to venture capitalists, but I think it also works pretty well for conference speakers.

3. Keep it simple.

If you follow Guy’s rule above, you won’t run into the all-too-common problem of speakers cramming way too many points on each slide. My own rule of thumb is no more than five bullet points per slide and limiting it to three is even better. If you have too many points on a slide, make that into two slides!

4. Don’t read your slides.

Your bullet points are summaries to help us remember what you’ve said – and to help you remember what you’re planning to say – but you’ll bore your audience if all you do is read them.

5. Make it interactive.

Involve the audience. Yes, we want to hear your voice, but we also want to benefit from your expertise by being able to ask you questions. Shorten your presentation and save time for questions. And you don’t have to wait until the end of your talk to open up for audience Q&A, it’s fine to take questions in the middle of the presentation. That way you also find out if the audience understands your points or needs more explanation. It enables you to make mid-course corrections.

6. Don’t be too cute.

It’s true that PowerPoint, Keynote and Prezi are filled with fun features, but that doesn’t mean you need to jazz up your presentation with snazzy transitions and builds. Simple ones are fine, but too many just distract from your message.

7. Beware of complex charts and graphics.

A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but only if it’s clearly visible. How many times have you sat in an audience unable to see and understand what’s on screen because it’s been reduced in size so much in order to fit on a slide?

8. Make your talk and your slides flow.

Make sure your remarks roll out like a good story, in a logical order, and that the visuals match the story you’re telling.

Got any more good tips for speakers?