Well it seems my friend Renée Cormier is finally getting out from underneath the flu she was fighting and has started to jump on "The messaging of an idea" bandwagon — I actually think this is a big topic with much more discussion yet to be had. Here is the link to her latest post.
As always, she has offered some solid insight but I will say (with tongue in cheek) that she is blatantly perpetuating the image that she is a pragmatist and "I'm a head in the clouds, broad brush, idea and theory guy". Although some of this may be true (60 % tops), I'm going to show her that I can get pragmatic (or as I like so say, "granular").
gran·u·lar [ˈɡranyələr] ADJECTIVE — characterized by a high level of granularity
gran·u·lar·i·ty [ˌɡranyəˈlerədē] NOUN — the scale or level of detail present in a set of data or other phenomenon
No matter how you use it, as an adjective or as a noun (or interchangeably) it's a great business word that says you are getting into the DETAIL — and with that Ms Pragmatic, I'll show you...
I appreciate that there are direct alternatives to PowerPoint, and even different modes to get an idea across (such as videos, old school acetates, or sock puppets) but in the end the PowerPoint presentation is so entrenched it'll be here for a while — and besides, I really like it.
Why do I like it you may ask?
I suppose one of the reasons is I have created thousands of slide decks for one reason or another over the years and I am really, really comfortable with it; up and above that I like the versatility of what you can use it for — presentations of course, but I have also used it as a training manual template, for process mapping, reporting, and graphics in videos. I find it extremely useful as the foundation for so many things. Oh, and you can build upon all those presentation decks you have made and actually save time.
All things considered, I wanted to get granular with using PowerPoint for presenting an idea and effectively getting your message across.
Granularity Point #1 — If you are asked to work with a corporate PowerPoint template... use it. When you use it don't change it and follow the guidelines to the letter, because if you don't, someone at the back will point it out, disrupt your flow, and spend more time then you think complaining about how you can't follow the simplest of guidelines. If you have the flexibility to develop you own presentation template it is important to keep it simple with a white background — you may think that a blue or red background is creative but it just makes it hard to read.
Granularity Point #2 — This is more a list of dos and don'ts:
- Don't use sound.
- Don't use animation.
- Don't work under the impression that the more words mean a more effective message.
- Don't embed videos into your presentation.
- Don't use cheesy clip art, stickmen or kittens.
- Don't use any font style other than Helvetica (unless your corporate template sees it differently).
- Don't use a font size that can't easily be read on the screen from six meters away (twenty feet).
- Don't use more than ten sides to get your idea across (excluding appendix)
The dos are anything that aren't don'ts (but even this is not true all the time).
Granularity Point #3 — PowerPoint presentations are not meant for you to read while you are standing up at the front of the room — they are meant to hold your audience on key points that tell your story. A PowerPoint is simply a glorified list of talking points — so what every you do, don't stand in front of your audience and read from the screen.
Granularity Point #4 — What exactly are the components of an effective slide? There are three components for the most part: a) a graphic or picture b) text (including the title of the slide) that speaks to the key message of the slide and c) a take away message at the bottom of the page (more often than not in red). Try to have as much white space as possible without compromising your message.
This is where content and format collide — and it takes time to get good at both. If you know someone who is good with composition and design get them to format your slides.
Granularity Point #5 — This could probably be categorized in point #4 but I think it will offer an important point to tie much of this granularity together. If you need to use a chart in your presentation (or pitch) make sure the audience can read it — if you find yourself saying out loud "I know this chart is hard to read and busy..." then I will suggest your presentation wasn't ready for the world to see. It is imperative to ensure everything is easy to read and interpreted by your audience.
Your message will be lost if your audience is squinting and saying to themselves, "What exactly does that say?"
Granularity Point #6 — Present the slide deck as if it is a conversation — granted, if it's a large audience it's more of a one sided conversation but it still invites engagement, involvement and most importantly questions.
I hope I have done well by Renée when it comes to my ability to get granular.