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Pictures, please, if you must use PowerPoint

Perhaps the most common mistake I see when helping executives rehearse their presentations is too many words on their slides. What happens is this – the slide becomes a series of bullet points mainly for the benefit of the speaker, and not for the audience. In effect, the slide is their on-screen set of speaking notes.

At my company we must be pitching for new business several times a week every week. I see many of these pitches and can understand why they are so word-heavy. There is a strong belief that our audience needs to see what we are saying in order to understand our message. The problem is that members of our audience are very often squinting at the screen to try and read what’s on display, and not listening to us at all. Slides like that can actually be hugely distracting and unhelpful to our cause.

We now have come to understand the difference between a presentation to be made to our potential clients and a leave-behind document that reminds them of what we have said. The first will be dominated by interesting photographs, enlightening graphics or intriguing visuals that enhance the stories and narrative of our pitch.

Our speaking notes are kept off the slides, but we know that those speaking notes may well be useful to our potential clients, so we produce a second version of the presentation that has both the visuals and the words. That’s the one we leave behind after the pitch.

My advice? Dump the text. Use only images.

The right image can not only transform your presentation, but also transform a media opportunity and its position in a paper or magazine. In this age of iPad editions, blogs and news websites, pictures are more important than ever before. There are more opportunities for pictures to be used these days, but remember that every picture you use needs to tell a story or enable you to tell your story better.

This is where getting some creative help in can pay enormous dividends. A good designer can give you ideas for great visuals that can make your speech or media interview much more memorable.

Strategy. Ownership. Rehearsal. Voice. Theme. Hook. Graphics. These are the keys to performing well on a public platform.

So, what about the words? I hear you ask.

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