Death by PowerPoint is something you’ve no doubt experienced first hand. Painful to watch and sit through.
It’s also something you may well have been guilty of with your own bid and tender presentations.
In fact the symptoms are easy to diagnose:
- Too many slides – Typically more than one slide per minute.
- Too many words on each slide – This can take many forms: large blocks of text pasted from a word processor, too many bullet points and/or overlong bullet points that wrap onto two or even three lines.
- Overdone animation – Animation is addictive, fancy transitions, headings flying in from left to right and top or bottom and bullet points appearing and disappearing in multiple ways.
Analysing a typical presentation
Working with a new client recently, I asked their team to prepare a presentation.
When complete their 30 minute presentation had 47 slides, with an average of seven animated bullet points on each.
Their bullets were complete sentences with about 15 to 20 words in each.
After sitting down with the team to look more closely at the presentation, the statistical analysis was enlightening:
- One new slide every 38 seconds and a new bullet point every 6.5 seconds. No wonder I couldn’t focus on the presentation there was always something happening on the screen to distract me.
- A grand total of 5,593 words. The average adult reading speed is about 300 words a minute. Their slides would take me 19 minutes to read. What did they want me to do? Listen to them or read their slides? I couldn’t do both at the same time!
Sadly, I think their presentation was very typical.
So why do we continue to produce presentations like this? The answer is very simple…
As presenters we create PowerPoint slides for us – not the audience.
When I began talking to the team about the use of speaking notes they look nonplussed, “But we don’t use notes, all the points we need to make are on the screen.”
We write the PowerPoint slides as our speaking notes, ignoring totally the needs of the listeners.
This is because when we started writing the presentation we opened PowerPoint and began typing.
Avoiding death by PowerPoint – Seven key principles
- Don’t start work on the slides until you have the structure and content fully developed
- Each slide should cover 3 to 5 minutes of presentation
- Limit the slides to the key messages you want the audience to remember?
- A maximum of five bullet points per slide
- A maximum of five words per bullet
- Use the B key when you are in slideshow
- It’s you the client needs to hear, see and believe in. Don’t let the technology takeover
If you follow these seven key points you’ll ensure your bid or tender presentation focuses on the audience rather than you.