The first thing I picked up on in my PR career was that no one likes a long PowerPoint presentation. For some reason I seem to be subjected to cruelly high number during my average week, so I have seen all sorts. Sahara dry to Willy Wonka wonderful, every type you can imagine and the one universal truth is that the shorter they are, the better they are.
Once upon a time, many moons ago, a client came to us with a PowerPoint which was 46 slides long. Forget the fear we had at just amending the document, there was a pronounced dread at just reading it – this badboy was a real humdinger. We copied all the words out of the document and found that there was over 12,000 words right off the bat. Translate that into the presentation and you have a mammoth show on your hands. Despite our advice, the client resisted all but the most obvious of cutbacks and went ahead with a 40-slide long presentation. Predictably, it died on its arse and the story the next day had less to do with the content and more to do with the time it took to relay the content.
Similarly, a friend of mine told me he had to sit through a 40+ presentation in an internal meeting at his agency and thought more than once about taking his own life.
For an industry that likes to bullet point information wherever possible, there seems to be a disease, which is rife, that compels people when a PowerPoint document is open to gush out the entire contents of Wikipedia.com.
In my tender experience, I would advise:
- Bullet point wherever possible
- Don’t just read the words of the screen – summarise
- Don’t play around with the mouse, the arrow only distracts
- Try not to stare at the screen, look at the audience
- Never go more than 15 slides
- If you go above 15, don’t handout the presentation, it will only put off your audience
- Before finalising, read through and ask these questions: does that word need to be there? Does that line repeat something already stated? Will anyone care if this isn’t here but is in your speech?
Sounds very, very obvious – which makes the PowerPoint epidemic in our industry all the more bizarre because we are all (probably) aware of it.
Were I to offer any advice to those looking to get into PR, it would be to keep in mind “less is more” when it comes to PowerPoint. Clients, journalists and colleagues will all thank you.