How-to: Engage or Enrage? Powerpoints to Remember

Magic Lantern By Andrei Niemimäki (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsOriginally posted Sep 18, 2014 via LinkedIn Pulse – Engage or Enrage? Powerpoints to Remember.

“Power-Point is only a glorified slide-show; the point of power in the room should be the speaker.” Thomas Everchild

Powerpoint for presentations, briefings, speeches, pitches … friend or foe? The pros and cons, and how to get the best out of your slideshows…

Or – how to engage not enrage your audiences.

Any speaker wants more than anything else to capture the audience’s attention, keep it, and get that message across.

Auditory people learn best by hearing information – we pay attention to the words and to the voice and the way the words are delivered. Writing a well-crafted speech and developing a strong, interesting and compelling voice will help them to engage with you and what you’re saying.

Visualisers learn best by seeing information and picturing concepts. If we add the element of seeing the information a presentation, that will increase the amount that goes in and stays in. Pictures, graphs, colours, diagrams, photos, art, illustrations … these appeal most to the visualisers, and visual aids will support your message.

Kinaesthetic people learn best by doing things. They like to have a go, get their hands dirty, move about and get involved. Otherwise their attention wanders and they may start to fidget, or drop off.

Most of us use all these styles to one degree or another, and one often dominates.

So the most successful presentations usually involve an element of all three, and they’re especially useful for training presentations where you want to get information, understanding and knowledge across.

For auditory and visual people, using a slideshow can be a powerful aid to achieving success – it can also cause a presentation to crash and burn if not used well, especially for the more kinaesthetic people.

For successful slideshow presentations, when designing slides:

  • Use very little text – too much text will overwhelm and confuse. They’re hearing what you’re saying and also “hearing” the words they’re reading at the same time – and they probably won’t be the same words at once.
  • Few bullet points
  • Plenty of white space
  • Plain uncluttered backgrounds without logos or decorations – they will distract
  • Concentrate on clear, good quality visual images – the slide is the equivalent of the picture on the TV screen. You don’t see the narration or the script on screen when you watch TV or a film so why should you want to when you look at a slide?
  • You can include internet access to demonstrate websites, play video and audio into a slideshow, which adds a lot of variety and interest. Just be sure you are very familiar with it all and the venue has a good wi-fi connection.
  • Your slideshow should follow the film rule of “show don’t tell” – it’s your message in visual format.
  • Programmes come with all kinds of distracting and irritating features – wipes, animations, fade in, fade out .. these quickly become a distracting bore, as do clip art and cheesy “humorous” cartoons. Leave them out. Visual interest comes with your material, not with tricks.

When using the slideshow:

  • People often make the mistake of thinking that the “presentation” IS the slideshow.
  • It isn’t – you, your words and your message are the presentation, the slideshow is the icing on the cake. You should be able to deliver it perfectly well even if – as once happened to me – the client’s spanking new Istanbul training building has not yet been wired up for electricity, and you can’t use the slides.
  • For a lecture, you can create handouts with a few slides and writing space that you can give out in advance so they can write notes as you talk it through. It’s very formal and quite constraining. If they do want a print of the slideshow, I prefer to give them out at the end or email them.
  • You can create speaking notes for yourself with the slide at the top of the page and the relevant notes below – useful if you can’t see the screen all the time.
  • Try to get in early and if it’s an unfamiliar place and system, make sure you know how it all works. If it won’t respond, make sure everything is plugged in properly before calling / blaming IT …
  • A handset is useful so you don’t have to go back to the laptop to change slides every time. They often have a helpful laser pointer attached, but if you’re nervous that dot will wobble about on the screen and look very distracting.
  • When speaking I always advise you “allow the pause …” this gives time for the audience to think and catch up, for your message to sink in.
  • As a visual equivalent, learn how to use the B for Blank key, or insert a blank slide, so their attention comes back to you. You are the presentation, after all!
  • ‘Worshipping the slide,’ where the speaker keeps gazing up at the image instead of the audience, is a sure way to lose their attention. Stop speaking, glance at it and register the contents, look back to the audience – then start speaking again.
  • Use it – and lose it. When you’re done with that image, let it go or it will distract from your next point. It gives them a rest from staring at what can be quite a bright image.
  • Beware Death by Powerpoint – the speaker turns the lights off so everyone can read the text they are droning through, and the gentle hum of the fan and the warmth of the room gradually lulls them all to sleep….
  • And do keep it short. Especially just after lunch.


Image credit: Magic Lantern By Andrei Niemimäki (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

About Philippa Hammond

Speaking Well In Public offers a portfolio of public speaking courses for business, performance and social occasions designed and developed by Philippa Hammond, combining her skills and techniques as an award-winning trainer, working actor and voice artist. Philippa is a member of Equity and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.


One thought on “How-to: Engage or Enrage? Powerpoints to Remember

  1. Hi there colleagues, its great post, keep it up all the time.|

    Posted by Nicolas Roman | Oct 2, 2015, 6:47 pm

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