Let me start by saying that I rank among the worst presenters in the world. I can't bare to watch myself present. I repeat words obsessively during a presentation. Words like "so" and "actually." I don't know how to fix my presentation style. I've given up. So I figure the audience will actually have to bare the punishment of watching me say "so" and "actually" a few too many times!
But there is one major mistake that I corrected about 8 years ago after I watched one of Steve Jobs' brilliant presentations. It's a mistake that I see repeated in more than 95% of presentations I watch. In fact, I was at the local Tie Rapid Fire Pitch Event last night and I think all but two or three of the presenters (out of about 20) made this enormous mistake.
So what is the mistake? Lets see if you can spot it here:
Do you see the mistake? Too many words on a single slide!
There were a group of us watching presentations in the back of the room and every time we saw a slide like the one above, which was way too often, there were a few chuckles. It's really hard to take a presenter seriously when they thought it was acceptable to put so many words on a single PowerPoint slide during a 2-minute rapid-fire presentation.
What is the purpose of the slide? Should I listen to the presenter or read the slide? I can't do both and I most certainly am not interested in reading a slide with so many words on it. If I was going to read, I'd listen to audible. If I only listen to the presenter, then I feel like I've missed out on an important piece of information that only the slide provided. What to do? I'll just tune out instead! That's a lot easier to do when the presenter expects me to do so much work.
So what should the slides of a presenter contain? Learn from the master of presentations, Steve Jobs. Here is a video of him introducing the iPad:
The key to having great slides is to have very few words on the slide itself. Pictures are great, but if you're going to put words on a slide, make sure the viewer can read all the words at a glance. You could also build the words little-by-little as you speak. Create slides that introduce two or three words at a time at precisely the moment those words are important to your presentation.
Of course, every rule has some exceptions. For example, when quoting someone, it's a great idea to provide the full quote in the slide, regardless of how many words:
In summary, keep the slides simple and focused. Make sure your audience can follow along without a lot of reading.