There may be 7 Deadly Sins, but PowerPoint users often commit five sins of their own. And it's we audience members who end up doing penance.
Call it the PowerPoint Waltz, or Certain Death in 5 Easy Steps.
To tell your story engagingly and persuasively instead through PowerPoint, download my free cheat sheet, "5 Rules for Succeeding with PowerPoint."
Quick-and-Easy Ways to Induce PowerPoint Arrest in Your Audience
Two days ago, I sat through a PowerPoint presentation at a conference, and just like you when you attend such presentations, barely survived to tell the tale. So the following items won't shock you. Keep them in mind, however, if you feel the need to induce heart-stopping boredom in your audience or put them into a deep coma, whichever strikes your fancy. Here are the 5 simple steps of the PowerPoint Waltz you need to learn:
(Of course, if you insist on starting out strongly and effectively, take a look at my e-book on powerful introductions: How to Start a Speech.)
1. Speak to the slide. Admittedly, a perennial favorite. But if you can do it from the very first words out of your mouth without even a glance at your audience, you'll prove yourself to be quite a dancer! Let's face it: PowerPoint slides and the screen they're projected upon are well known to be impressionable and easily influenced. Much more so, in fact, than the human beings in your audience. Of course, they also crave your constant attention. Give them what they need!
2. Speak over the slide. This step takes some practice, though it's well worth your time and effort. Here's how it's done: Project something onto the screen (including at least 5 bullet points), then say something completely different from what the audience is seeing. You'll force your listeners to try to read the content of the PowerPoint slide, while attempting to listen to whatever you're saying (which naturally should be of a comletely different nature from the language on the slide). Your audience will find this impossible to do, but since they opted to hear your PowerPoint presentation in the first place, they deserve such treatment!
3. Create a literary document. You can derive great satisfaction from this step, since it proves that your high school teacher and English composition professor in college were absolutely wrong. You can, in fact, write something long and involved and filled with peripheral information, dependent clauses, and sufficient punctuation, if, as I am doing right here, and you can plainly judge for yourself, you put your mind to it! This step in the PowerPoint Waltz is essential because a presentation is an oral performance. To guarantee instant death, therefore, you must indulge your inner Virginia Woolf instead.
4. Learn to Step Closer to the Screen and Back Repeatedly (While Disregarding Your Audience). Dizzy yet? If you learn this step well, you will add synergistic power to your ability to ignore your audience that you demonstrated in Step #1 above. Remember: the important relationship here is between you, your content, and the PowerPoint screen. So get close to the screen whenever you can, then tease the screen by moving away, then snuggle closer, etc. Fun, isn't it!
5. Use the Click-Talk Technique. This clever technique makes your dance into something stiff and static, in the tradition of staid Viennese waltzes. Instead of crafting a story into which you weave the visual elements of PowerPoint, practice a much more predictable routine: show a slide, talk about it, show a slide, all the way through your presentation. In this way, you'll safely and cleverly avoid creating anticipation or interest in the slide you're about to show. And here's something special to aim for: when you get really good at this technique, the audience will grasp that you don't know what's on the next slide until you see it yourself!
Bonus Step: (Don't try this until you've mastered the steps above): Learn the Disappearing Voice Trick! Here's how it works: Hold the microphone you're given in one hand, then gesture constantly with that hand. And make your gestures larger than life! Your voice will fade in and out, adding tremendously to the mysterious quality of your waltz. Strauss would have loved it!