Public Speaking – Why a Slide Show is Never Enough

Tony Hall asked:

When making speeches or presentations the use of slides can be very useful in helping you to get your point across. With the advent of computer programs like PowerPoint it is now easier than ever to put together a professional looking slide show. There are lots of graphics and methods of building up the points on your slides that you can use to create a marvelous effect. But just because you can do so doesn’t always mean that you should!

Certainly slides can be an effective way of showing illustrations, diagrams, maps and charts. And by all means use them to highlight key points in the form of bullet points. But when putting together a speech you really should avoid having slides full of text that you expect your audience to read. I’ve had to sit through presentations of that type and it’s not much fun. Boredom and sleepiness can very quickly set in so avoid putting your audience in that situation.

Here are some reasons why:

– Too much text can lead to the use of uninspiring language and information overload. If your audience is required to try and read line after line on the screen they will quickly switch off. Always remember that the way you speak, and the sorts of words and phrases you use, is different to how you write. Therefore simply writing out your speech on a slide is going to use language that will in fact hinder your attempts to communicate with the audience.

– When your audience is required to read and listen at the same time they won’t be paying full attention to what you’re saying. By attempting to read what’s on the slide they will not take in the words coming out of your mouth.

– If you are merely reading aloud what is on the slides it will appear that either you don’t really know the subject or that you’re not actually interested in it. If you’re not, then very soon your audience will lose their interest too!

– One of the important lessons you must learn in becoming an effective public speaker is always establishing eye contact with your audience. You should create a conversational tone to your speech and make it seem to each member of your audience that you are speaking directly to them. If the first thing you do when you start your speech is to put on the screen a slide full of text, those present will immediately believe they need to pay more attention to the slides than to you and what you are saying. Your opportunity to create rapport will be lost.

– If your audience is simply reading what is on your slides they may actually read ahead and so the impact of any point you are trying to make is lost. Alternatively it’s possible that they may still be trying to take in what’s on the slide whilst you’ve moved on to some other highly significant aspect, which as a result is lost on them.

– It may not be easy for everyone to see the whole of the screen. You or other audience members may block the view. Another certain reason for losing the attention of your audience members.

So by all means take advantage of technology to use slides to assist your presentation. But rather than filling them with words, use them to illustrate your talk with statistics, diagrams, charts, maps, and even photographs. That way they will add to your talk, not detract from it, and you will become a far more successful speech maker.


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