Powerpoints: Less is More. None Better?
Both came of age in the 1990’s. They attracted loyal fans. But even the best of fans in an audience can shut down on your song or your story, given too much of anything. Teen angst is a fickle message. Powerpoints are equally a fragile means of messaging. Think of that in telling your story.
I received a call from a small nonprofit last week seeking advice on a presentation it was planning to pitch to a funder. The question was: Powerpoint or no? And if so, how much? Our guidance: Less is more. None, maybe better.
(Fast forward, they showed up, skipped the visuals and told their story concisely and convincingly. It was obvious that offering no visuals did not mean they had not worked hard to prepare their pitch. They won the grant. The audience was focused on the presenter, not pixels behind her. No Powerpoint was needed. And when the speaker announced she had none, she literally was greeted with smiles and applause).
You’ve been there. Those 45-minute slide presentations that induce quick-nap, time-to-check-email, scribble-on-a napkin moments. My best trick when subjected: Pretend an urgent message has come through, jump up from the table, stick phone to ear and run for the exit. Maybe that’s just attention-deficited me. But you know what I am talking about. Used well, Powerpoint is a powerful tool. Overdone? The Spice Girls’ hit “Stop” comes to mind.
Like them or not, a “presentation” is often required when you are asked to ask for money. If you must, here are my guidelines, gleaned from hundreds of engagements with Powerpoint people over the years. When Microsoft Office suite introduced the tool it was a shiny-new-thing gadget back then. But then also cool were The Spices, Nintendo’s Game Boy and Beanie Babies. Not that there’s anything wrong with all that. But today, if you must, or are required to employ a “deck,” in today’s vernacular, here’s some advice:
Use slides as a guide to the discussion, almost like those index cards we were taught to fumble with in high school speech classes.
- No more than 12-16 slides, whether it’s an hour or all-day event.
- No more than 6 points to each slide. No more than 8-10 words to each point. Have handouts with details. Just point to the slides and say there are handouts on the table.
- Take a tip from brain surgeons: Don’t get fancy. Just get in and get out, with precise care for every word. This is not a good time to improvise.
I also found these 10 tips from a good source, Lifehack.org. It may tell much that it’s a few years dated. But I like what they had to say.
You have an important story to tell. Share your Charitable Words with passion, concisely and convincingly.
Trust yourself and your story. Those clicker things never work anyway, right? With apologies to IT people everywhere, your story is too important to be left to the whims of technology or the wizards of it who may just left the room for a moment. This is no time for awkward moments.
And when you announce, “I have no powerpoint,” you may already have won the crowd.