AMY NEWMAN: Welcome, everyone. Thanks for joining us today. I am Amy Newman. I teach managerial communication at the School of Hotel Administration here at Cornell University and I'm glad you could join us today.
We're talking about using visual support for an oral presentation, with a special focus on PowerPoint. I know this is a fairly popular topic for people who listen to a lot of presentations and are bored to death by PowerPoint. And I hope also for some people who use PowerPoint, this'll be helpful to make better presentations.
Our topics for today are along these lines. After the introduction, which we're doing now, we'll discuss some of the pitfalls of PowerPoint. And for those of you who have listened to a lot of presentations and seen a lot of PowerPoint, I'm sure this will be all too familiar to you.
In our first of seven modules, we'll spend time talking about, how do you make your points clear? And especially for US business presentations, our main points are typically upfront. How do we make sure that the audience knows what we're talking about immediately? And that's reinforced throughout a presentation.
Next, we'll talk about making your presentation easy to follow, different strategies in terms of agenda slides, slide trackers so the audience always knows where you are during your presentation. We'll spend time, too, talking about PowerPoint design. We hear a lot about ugly design, color contrast, things like that that we want to avoid. So we'll look at lots of examples here and discuss some principles in this section.
In module four, we'll talk about how to replace text with graphics. One of the complaints I hear most about PowerPoint is that all of the text is on the slide. There's too much to read or the presenter is reading off the slide and we will discuss ways to avoid that. Similarly with numbers, numbers are very difficult to read on a slide. So we want to find good ways to convert those into charts and graphs that people can understand.
In module six, we'll discuss how to write simply and clearly. The writing is still important for PowerPoint, even though it's not a traditional written document. And then, finally, how to deliver your PowerPoint presentation-- how do you react with the PowerPoint so that you're the focus of the presentation and not the slides?
At least for business presentations, PowerPoint seems to have become the default, just like email has become the default for a lot of business communication within an office. But we know that PowerPoint's not always appropriate. When are some situations where you might not want to use PowerPoint?
SPEAKER 1: Probably a eulogy.
AMY NEWMAN: Eulogy-- there's a good one. Right, it might be a little strange if I showed you a pie chart of my grandma Ruth's time or her contributions during her life. I also think during a eulogy, which is a good example, that we want more emotional appeal. And sometimes with a PowerPoint, your focus is really more on the slides than on the presenter and you might lose some of that connection with the audience. What are some other examples?
SPEAKER 2: I think a political speech.
AMY NEWMAN: Sure, political speeches-- we typically don't see use of visual communication, other than the speaker, him or herself. Not that we wouldn't like to maybe see a bar chart of what a political candidate is promising and how that might turn out for us, but it might be a little bit difficult with a televised audience and the teleprompter-- so a good one, too. What else?
SPEAKER 3: Another inappropriate use would be at a church sermon.
AMY NEWMAN: Church sermon-- yeah, again, like the eulogy and even the political speech, that's really more about an emotional appeal and you probably wouldn't want to use PowerPoint.
So I think it's important to think about the content of your presentation, certainly. What is your communication objective? What do you really want to achieve? What do you want people to either think, feel, or do differently as a result of your presentation?
And also, it's important to think about who the audience is. How would they like to receive information and what are their expectations? And that's probably why PowerPoint has become the default in business presentations because that's what, at this point, people expect. But it doesn't mean that's what you have to do in every situation.
As an example of a different kind of PowerPoint, which is not really our focus for this module but also one that's popular in business, I want to show you this slide. This example happens to come from Deloitte Development and we're seeing this in many of the consulting firms and financial services firms, where there's a lot of text and a lot graphics on the slide.
Now, is this easy to read? Not so much, right-- so I would not propose that you use this for a business presentation that supports your oral presentation, where you're still the primary focus. However, there could be situations-- maybe we're on a conference call or an online web-based meeting where people have this documentation in front of them and are reviewing it in more detail.
What we'll focus on in this seminar, though, is more this kind of slide, which is far more typical. It's not a perfect slide. There are some spacing issues. There are capitalization inconsistencies, if I'm going to be a stickler about it. But it is a very typical slide, a few words and a lovely picture.
Next, we'll talk about the pitfalls of PowerPoint. And then as we go through each of the modules, which will use all different kinds of visual formats, we'll talk about more principles to create beautiful slides.
Before we get into the modules, I wanted an audience perspective of PowerPoint, particularly to talk about some of the pitfalls. So I've invited here today Greg Bodenlos. He is a senior here at the School of Hotel Administration. So Greg, why don't you tell us some of the things that drive you crazy about PowerPoint?
GREG BODENLOS: Well, the number one thing I don't like about PowerPoint is that people think it's more of-- they tend to use it as a crutch instead of a tool. And PowerPoint really should just be supplementing whatever you're talking about, whether if you're giving a presentation to business clients or to students in a classroom. What I've seen is that people want to supplant and not just supplement their lecture.
And I think that that's really the biggest misuse of PowerPoint is that people would maybe if you don't have too much content in your presentation and if you worry about losing your place in your presentation, you'll want to just put everything on the slides. And then, you're worried also if you're nervous about losing your place and also just falling back on PowerPoint as your crutch.
And again, it's just a tool to supplement whatever you're saying and I think that most people don't use it that way. And that's what just drives me crazy the most because they don't use it the right way.
AMY NEWMAN: Can you talk a little bit more about how it affects you as a student listening to someone deliver a PowerPoint pres like that?
GREG BODENLOS: Sure. From the student prospective, it drives me the most crazy when my professors will not look at the audience much. It becomes a reading lesson where the professor's back is turned for most of the lecture to the students, reading their content on the PowerPoint.
And then, my fellow peers and I, we think to ourselves sometimes, why do we go to class then? If the professor's back is turned to us for 90% of the lecture, is there really any engagement there? Why don't we just get the slides ahead of time before class? Then, we won't have to go.
So that's really what kind of drives me crazy sometimes is that it's less of an engagement or an interaction from person to person and becomes more of a note-taking session, where we as students are just recording everything that's on the slides and the professor's just reading everything that's on the slides.
AMY NEWMAN: I could definitely see that.
GREG BODENLOS: Yeah.
AMY NEWMAN: Well, I guess one way around that-- and faculty members debate this all the time-- is, what if we gave you the content ahead of time? You had all the PowerPoint slides in front of you. Do you like that?
GREG BODENLOS: Again, that's from a student prospective less writing for us, which is always good. But what I think a lot of professors do, which I think is good, is that they'll give us the slides after class. So from a student perspective, we definitely want to see the content but at the same time-- I'm guilty of this. Sometimes during class, if you have all the slides in front of you, you have a tendency to drift off and not really pay attention to the professor.
So by having the slides after a class, then you can look back in your notes and say, OK, maybe this is what I missed. But then, you're still engaged and it's more of an interaction and less of just a one-way conversation where the professor is just showing you what's on your slides.
AMY NEWMAN: That definitely makes sense to me. I think maybe another compromise and this is what I typically do is post the slides that I have, which aren't that text-heavy. So students who want to print them out ahead of time can. If they don't want to, they don't have to. But there's not so much content that they don't have to take notes because I do consider note-taking part of the learning process.
And certainly from my experience in business, people expect to get the PowerPoint slides ahead of time because they want to take notes and refer to things later.
GREG BODENLOS: Sure.
AMY NEWMAN: What else? Anything else from an audience view?
GREG BODENLOS: From a student perspective, you get very nervous when you give a presentation. And I am the first one to say this, that when you lose your track when you're giving a presentation, you want something to rely on. But that's when PowerPoint is great. It can be used as an outline.
If you're giving a presentation, you know most your content. But if you do lose your place, I don't be afraid to look back on my slides because then, you find your place and then you can move forward. So that's another reason why PowerPoint is really an effective tool.
Another thing is that if you have visuals to support your argument, PowerPoint is great for that. And I think that that's one of the major benefits of using PowerPoint is that if you have visuals or charts or graphs, it really can make your arguments all the more meaningful and memorable. And so really, those are the times where you can use PowerPoint to great effect.
Again, we're talking about the pitfalls here and it becomes a problem when someone's just too reliant with the text and the content in the PowerPoint. So that's where you have to kind of walk the fine line.
AMY NEWMAN: I definitely agree. It's a great tool. People love to hate PowerPoint. Let's not hate PowerPoint. Let's just get better at it. Well, thanks so much for giving us your perspective
GREG BODENLOS: Yeah.
AMY NEWMAN: And through the rest of this course, we will get better at using PowerPoint as a tool.
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We work and live in a visually mediated environment. Understanding the value of visual information is one of the keys to effective communication.
In this CyberTower Study Room, you'll learn how to use visuals in your presentations to support your message. Because PowerPoint has become the most prevalent software tool for business presentations and academic lectures, Amy Newman will focus on this application as she discusses and demonstrates the uses of visual communication, warns you of some of the common pitfalls, and then guides you through seven key principles for improving your presentations:
making the main point clear,
making the presentation easy to follow,
choosing an attractive and appropriate design,
replacing text with graphics,
replacing numbers with charts,
writing simply and clearly, and
making sure that PowerPoint remains a tool that supports the presentation, rather than becoming the focus of the presentation.
Whether you use PowerPoint or other presentation software, this CyberTower room will provide you with a wealth of useful tips.
This video is part 1 of 7 in the Using Visuals to Support a Presentation: PowerPoint series.