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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What NOT to Do when You Present

I went to a training recently (it's going to remain nameless to protect the offenders) and three out of the four presenters committed every PowerPoint sin imaginable. Sometimes I wonder if I need to keep shouting out the message about presenting and then I see that so many people clearly don't get it.

To start with, they printed out their PowerPoint slides and gave them to everyone before the presentation started. So we all had, in hand, everything that they were going to say in the coming hour.

Then they created presentations that were entirely comprised of bullet points. Each slide had a title and at least four bullet points.

Then they read the bullet points from the screen to the audience (remember we already have the slides as a handout). So we're seeing a projection of the words we have in our hands that are also being read. This is a recipe for the lowest retention possible. Studies show that when text is projected and spoken, retention drops (by 15%) and the retention wasn't that high to begin with, since only about 10% of a lecture is typically retained.

However, the last presenter did everything differently. It helps that she's a professional speaker, but that's no excuse for the other people. She showed a series of images with one or two word captions. She didn't give us handouts of her slides (ever) and she engaged us in activities that were complimentary to her topic. I've retained nearly all of that final presentation, but the first three yielded one or two facts that have stayed with me.

Please, don't use bullet points.

Wait, let me say this in a more understandable way:

  • Bullet points:
    • Bad
    • Stop
    • Don't
    • Quit it

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