A woman at my Toastmasters club is a self-avowed PowerPoint and presentation novice. So it came as something of a surprise to me that Elisabet recently taught me something about presentation design that I had never considered before.
People often complain about suffering “death by PowerPoint.” It should come as no surprise that much of that pain and anguish comes from the format the software imposes on us users. Consider the title slide. A layout for a title slide is part of every template provided by Microsoft and, in fact, every template I’ve ever designed for my clients. It is usually displayed at the beginning of a presentation and is often in view for some time before the speaker takes the stage. It sets the tone for the presentation and informs the audience about the topic and the speaker. It seems like a good idea, but the title slide in fact creates the sense that we are about to see A. PowerPoint. Presentation.
The simple solution to this? Don’t use a title slide.
By not using a title slide for her presentation, Elisabet set the expectation that she, not the slides, were the focus of her speech. In fact, she spoke for a couple of minutes before starting her slide show at all! Her slides were simple and clean, containing photographs and short phrases, and illustrated the points she wished to make. But most of the information came from her and not from the slides. She advanced the slides as she needed to and had added black slides for when she wanted to focus our attention back onto herself.
It’s a subtle, but effective, shift in presentation technique. When you use a title slide, you indicate your intention to execute a PowerPoint presentation. Your audience’s first interaction with your speech is through your slides. But when you eliminate the title slide, the audience must turn to you to learn what your speech is all about. This was the first time I’ve ever seen anybody do this, and I’ve been working with PowerPoint for 29 years!
I am definitely going to give this a try the next time I present. If you try this technique, please respond in the comment section below and let me know how it worked out!