Pointless Pointing in PowerPoint

Today we explore the connection between Power Point slides and television news graphics. Our journey into the land of better PowerPoint starts with this article … Lose that gesture: Presenters, stop pointing to your slides.

“Turning away, even partially, may cause you to break your eye contact with the audience. If you work at facing forward and even gesturing toward us, you’ll have our attention.”

Each one of her points has the same core message … the audience gets distracted when slides draw attention away from the presenter. Denise’s point is that the presenter shouldn’t intentionally move the audience’s focus away from the presenter.

It’s very simple … your presentation isn’t good if you rely too much on your slides. Slides are necessary to illustrate some points, but they they are there to support the presenter. It’s a presentation and you’re the presenter. If the presentation can be presented without you, then you have no value as a presenter.

I spend a lot of time turning engineering material into presentations. Most of this work can be described as “de-cluttering” … removing noise that distracts the audience from the presenter’s message. Slides that look like datasheets get turned into clear bullet points. A single text-heavy slide is divided into several smaller messages. Complex diagrams are distilled down to their essence.

There’s another group of people that use this formula … they work in TV news.

And Comedy Central ... they know this trick.

And Comedy Central … they know this trick.

TV created an industry for people who make scrolling text, lower-thirds packages and informative over-the-shoulder graphics. Those TV graphics and story clips support the newscaster’s main message. The newscaster’s message works even if the graphics aren’t there.

I'm sure this made sense at the time ...

I’m sure this made sense at the time …

The tactic of pointing still exists in some TV weather coverage, but it’s been reduced over the years. Instead of merely pointing a stick at some oncoming high-pressure cell, TV weather uses features *fancy*whoosh*zoom* 3D graphics to emphasize areas that should make you panic and buy a weather radio.

“Pointing isn’t your best tool for emphasis: I’m much rather see you consider pauses, vocal variety, cadence, volume and other tactics to emphasize the point you’re making.”

Except this guy ... apparently he didn't get the memo.

Except this guy … apparently he didn’t get the memo.

So if you must resort to PowerPoint slides, treat them like supplemental graphics on a TV newscast. Use slides to enhance your presentation, but never expect them to replace your message. If you want to give a presentation without being there, try video instead.

To be fair, I don't make a lot of sense even when I have supporting graphics.

To be fair, I don’t make a lot of sense even when I have supporting graphics.

One comment

  1. […] the slides possess magic powers. It’s a laser pointer, not a magic wand. Also, you should stop pointing at the slides. The really good presenter might have horrible materials, but it doesn’t matter because no […]

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