Toastmasters - Collected Wisdom

These are summaries of the collected wisdom of contributors to alt.toastmasters.org a Toastamsters newsgroup which operated between 1995 and 2008 and ToastmastersPrime, a Google group which commenced in 2008. This is not an official Toastmasters site, but is an edited collection of posts from the newsgroup and the Google group. These groups provide an unofficial means of communicating for an enthusiastic group of Toastmasters from throughout the world.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Powerful PowerPoint

In July 1998, Matt was looking for suggestions for using PowerPoint or other visual aids in a presentation. His concern was encapsulated in the thread title Slides inhibit presentation style - suggestions

Joy has seen and heard hundreds of speeches but only a very few where visual aids were really an asset as they often detract from the speech. If not all members of the audience can see them or read them those people lose part of the effect of the speech. They also cause the audience to look away from the speaker, thus destroying eye contact.

Murf raised doing a presentation on budget performance and explaining the 'figures' 'trends' etc. without the use of charts and graphs. Give them a test afterwards and see what the recall is.

For John F like any other kind of talk, we should be able to do our presentation without the visual. We never know when our projector is 'going to take early retirement' in the middle of a presentation.

The information on our visuals should give the salient points we want to cover and/or important supplementary information. A picture is worth a thousands words.

When we prepare our visuals, we do need to ask if the visual adds to our presentation, or just takes away. If it doesn't add, then we should just dispense with it.

In Mike's opinion many users of visual aids underestimate the intelligence of the audience and spend much too much time pointing at them rather than trusting the audience to realize that the number at the bottom, labelled "Total Expenditure" is, in fact, the total expenditure.

My other gripe is the use of visuals as a set of notes. I think that what put on the projector should reinforce by complimenting, not merely repeating, what you say. I see far to many overheads that are speaking notes rather than visual aids.

Eric recalled a presentation where he came to the room early, checked all the wiring connections etc. and did a dry run with no problems. When the real presentation began, they turned out the lights so that the audience could see the screen better. The room was pitch black - I couldn't see my fingers in front of me to type on the keyboard! I learned a lesson that day on what 'being prepared' meant.

Rick gives the audience a couple seconds to read the overhead before you start talking. So, I put the overhead up and skim it before going on. Then I go on looking at the audience instead of the overhead.

I have seen some visual aids which are useless. These are visual aids that have too much text or they are too small. That is one reason I like projected visual aids. If you have a well done slide, you can get a big enough projector for the size of the room you are using.

In May 2001 Denis posed a question about the number of slides to show in a 30 minute presentation. The thread was PowerPoint Question.

Rod suggested two very important things to bear in mind. The first is your message. If you succeed in getting that across, then the number of slides you used to achieve that goal is irrelevant. The other important thing to remember is that YOU are the presenter. The visual material is just support.

Fred doesn't think one can make a hard and fast rule. He has found that in sales training the number of slides varied widely from subject to subject. When the subject matter was technical more slides were required. When the subjects were things like the psychology of sales, or closing, the number of slides dropped dramatically and the explanations became longer.
A one hour session could vary from 20 to 40 slides.

If the slides "start to get in the way" and we seem to be changing them for the sake of changing them, then there are too many! They should facilitate and not hinder the communication of the message.

I always left lots of room on the page for the listener to make marginal notes to 'personalize' the message. This, also, tends to reduce the slide count.

I think that you must find a comfort level for yourself ensuring that the slides truly help rather than becoming an end in themselves.

Rick said not all slides will be displayed for the same amount of time. Some slides may simply indicate that you are moving to a different point and may be up for 10 seconds. Other slides, may be up for a while.

Jim's rule of thumb is that you should never put a slide on the screen for less 5 seconds. If the slide is shown for less then 5 seconds then it's not worth showing at all.

Ian said YOU are the presenter - use it to suit your style but be careful.
Use more of YOU, pictures and don't show slides with lots of points on them, if you do that the audience will read rather than listen to you.

In October 2003 Sky Eagle started a thread "Speaking Tips - Visual aids"

With visual aids it is necessary to be able to speak with them, but you need to be very careful with how you use them because they can detract from the speaker EASILY.

The general rule is to NEVER use any text smaller than 28 point.
Simple backgrounds are always best, rather than the loud ones. Personally I'd rather see something sedated that fits the topic and not a bunch of loud colors. Busyness is not a good thing either. When in doubt, just going with a simple color scheme and something like bars on the outside is best.

And on that topic of busyness, you only want your main points on your slides and not the whole speech. The slides (overheads or PowerPoint) are meant as a guide to the audience and not as a crutch so you don't have to remember your whole speech.

Make sure the slides can be read - that the text of the slides isn't similar to the color of the background.

Rick said don't just check the colors on your desktop monitor. It's best to check it on the projector as the display may vary significantly.

Rod added If a font you've chosen from the computer on which you created the slides isn't available on the one you're using to project them, the system will make a substitution, which may not be what you want.

I use a particular font to illustrate that some fonts are easier to read than others. If the font is substituted, the example becomes meaningless. Therefore I embed the font files in my presentation. This is an option on the Tools menu, under >Options >Save.



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