Slide presentations are critical to public speaking. Don’t believe me? Just look at the best speakers out there. More often than not, they’ll have a slide presentation, some sort of visual aid, they show the audience while they speak. And it’s easy to see why that is.
Slide presentations keep the presenter on message. With slide presentations, the speaker can convey the message better to the audience.
So, does that mean you can no longer show up in speaking engagements without slide presentations? Well, you can do that. But don’t expect your speaking event to be as successful as it could be. Just to give you an idea of how much slide presentations matter, let’s talk about how they can keep the presenter on message in many ways.
The Importance of Slide Presentations
Slide presentations keep you on message because they can do the following:
1. They give structure to your presentations
Slide presentations are called visual aids for a reason. They remind you about the flow of your speech when you’re already speaking in front of your audience. That’s a really handy tool. Even when you’ve practiced your speech so many times before D-Day, there’s still that chance you’ll forget your outline on the actual day of your presentation.
When you forget your outline, your presentation can end up all over the place. And when that happens, well, chances are, you’ll leave your audience even more confused than before.
2. They show you the relevant concepts you need to discuss
When you’re an expert in something, well, you really know a lot about the topic. So, when you speak in front of an audience, you typically have this insatiable desire to just share everything you know with them.
The problem with this, however, is that some of the things you end up sharing may not be relevant to the topic they’re actually interested in learning. And when that happens, you might just end up wasting your audience’s time.
If you’re not giving the audience a lecture on anything in particular and your speech was merely to instigate them to action, your slides still come in handy.
After all, you can only persuade people to take action if you follow your presentation plan to the letter. There’s such a thing as building up to the call to action in the first place. And to build up to the call to action, you need your presentation to follow the correct flow–from the introduction to the explanation to the actual CTA.
3. They give you an idea of how much time to spend on a subject
Slide presentations indirectly tell you how long you should spend talking about one subject. This is, of course, on the assumption that your presentations are reflective of what your overall presentation structure is.
Here’s how that would look. If your plan is to talk about the history of marketing for just five minutes and about marketing principles for 30 minutes, for example, your presentation should have more slides on marketing principles than on the history of marketing.
You should pay close attention to the time you spend on each important point in your presentation especially if you’re on a time limit. If you were only given one hour to talk about social media marketing, for instance, you can’t spend 50 minutes talking about the history of Facebook and then spend 10 minutes on social media marketing. You’ll only end up with annoyed members of your audience who expected to learn about social media marketing in the first place.
So, we’ve established that slide presentations are important in public presentations because they keep presenters on message. Does that mean you should just allow your audience to look at the slides and forget about you? The answer? No.
Why Is It Important To Not Let The Slides Distract Attention?
It’s important not to let the slides distract attention from the speaker because only the speaker can explain concepts. The slides only contain a limited amount of information. They may even contain wrong information.
Your presentation slides shouldn’t be your audience’s main source of information because presentation slides are not as thorough and are also prone to mistakes. Presentation slides should merely be used as visual aids.
Ways to Keep Audience Focus on You
The next question is this, then: How can you keep your audience from making your presentation slides their main source of information? Let’s look at several ways:
1. Don’t include your entire speech in your slides
Don’t include your entire presentation in your presentation slides. If you do, your audience will end up just reading what you have to say there. They won’t even bother to listen to you anymore. The resourceful ones might even ask you for copies of the slides instead so they don’t have to listen to the entire presentation.
Your slide presentation should only supplement the main speech. Instead of incorporating entire ideas there, include the important points. More often than not, these important points are in bullet form, just enough for them to pop out of the slide so when you see them, you’re reminded of what comes next in your presentation.
2. Keep your slide design simple.
Sometimes, your audience becomes distracted by your presentation slides not because of what’s written there but because of how they look.
If you use screaming colors for your slides, for instance, your presentation will definitely catch the eye. Or if you include too many pictures there, your audience will want to just marvel at the pictures instead of listening to you.
So, don’t use screaming red colors that will make your audience want to look at your slides for the duration of your presentation and forget you exist. Use neutral colors, the ones that are easy on the eye. Also, if you include pictures in your slides, make sure they’re to illustrate points. Don’t treat your presentation slides like the pages of a photo album.
You can include graphics but make sure you don’t overdo your use of them. If you insert too many of those, your audience will only end up watching the graphics. Don’t make them too nice either. If you do, members of your audience will only end up talking about how great your graphics were.
There’s a way you can make your presentation slides presentable without making them stand out too much. When creating presentations, remember, simplicity is always preferred. Check out the video above on how you can create a simple yet beautiful Powerpoint slide to get started.
3. Make your speech engaging
To prevent the members of your audience from focusing on your slides, make your speech engaging. Don’t just start a monologue and hope people will listen to you. You need to find ways to get their attention and retain that attention.
Fortunately for you, there are many ways you can do that. Here are some of them:
- Use icebreakers
- Ask your audience questions about the topic to involve them in the discussion.
- Crack a joke once in a while.
- Change your tone of voice to emphasize points.
- Use applicable hand gestures.
- Check in on your audience once in a while. See if they’re still following you.
If your speech is engaging, you don’t give your audience a reason to look for more interesting things in the venue in general (maybe their cell phones) while you’re making your speech.
4. Don’t rely on your presentation too much
If you want your audience not to focus on your presentation slides, then don’t focus on the slides either. You yourself have to use the slides as mere visual aids. That means you shouldn’t look at them too frequently or dwell on them. Don’t just read what’s written on your slides.
Remember, you’re the speaker. That means you’re the authority in a venue full of people. That also means they’ll look up to you and imitate whatever you do.
Presentation slides are an essential element in public speaking. They help keep you on message in many ways. They provide structure to your presentation, tell you the important concepts you need to discuss, and give you an idea of how much time you can spend on a subject.
That’s not to say, however, that the slides should already be the main focus during your speaking engagement. You shouldn’t allow your audience to distract attention from yourself because they might end up not understanding your message in the first place. After all, slide presentations can only carry so much information. They might even carry wrong information.
The good news is, there are ways you can prevent your slide presentations from becoming the center of attention during your speech. Just include some bullet points in the slides, keep the slide design simple and make your speech engaging. Finally, don’t rely on your presentation too much yourself.
Follow these tips and your audience’s entire attention will be on you throughout your presentation. And then all you’d have to do is give them the value they’re looking for, of course.
For more resources related to presentations, please review the articles, "Best Tvs for Presentations", "Which Laptops are Best for Powerpoint Presentations?" and "Presentation Equipment Checklist"