7 Deadly Sins to Scare Away Your Audience

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Do you commit these unspeakable horrors in your business presentations? Just because it’s Halloween and you bought fright make-up doesn’t make these PowerPoint wrongs right.

This is a guest article by my dear friend Gavin McMahon. Gavin blogs about PowerPoint, Communication, Infographics and Message Discipline at makeapowerfulpoint.com. Let’s have a look at his view on the seven deadly sins to scare your audience away with horrible PowerPoint.

Don’t like to read? Just check out Gavin’s Slideshare at the bottom of this article!

1. Poison Your Audience with Jargon Monoxide

Reaching out to the CRO to leverage a best practice on cloud asset utilization may make you feel smart saying it, but trust me the audience doesn’t get it. Corporate piglatin induced sleepiness kills your message. It’s the scary opposite of a deliberate wordhack, which entices and intrigues.

2. Shock! Horror! You May Not Be Able to Read This in the Back

Let me read it for you. If you’re resorting to this trick you’ve made a mistake. Make the font style and size you use in your presentation big and legible. If you have a lot of detail that needs to fit on a page, put it on a document and hand it out. It’s not for your slide deck. The the 8ft Rule can help you avoid this mistake.

3. The Blob

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A slide without a point is a big, shapeless blob. It doesn’t direct your attention, it fails to tell you what you need to know, it can’t back up the speaker, it washes over an audience. Make sure your slides have a point. Make sure you know what that point is, and sharpen it.

4. The Invasion of the Drones

There is no one “right” way to present. What worked for Steve Jobs won’t necessarily work for you, no matter how much you try. Understand what type of presenter you are and let you and PowerPoint work as a double act. Build on your strengths and let PowerPoint cover your weaknesses.

5. The Curse of the Label

Defaulting to labels instead of headlines doesn’t help you, or your audience. A sentence fragment at the top of the slide helps but not much. Turn the label into a headline so your audience knows at a glance the point you’re trying to press home. Back it up with evidence.

This is death by PowerPoint, seen at Rosenlundsgatan 5 in Stockholm some weeks ago. Don't let it happen to you!

This is death by PowerPoint, seen at Rosenlundsgatan 5 in Stockholm some weeks ago. Don’t let it happen to you!

6. The Franken-deck

Taking a slide from your last presentation, a few from Bob’s, cutting and pasting a couple of juicy quotes from the web, inserting some charts you found and a table from a report is the equivalent of robbing body parts and stitching them together. You may have the juice to make it come alive, but it’s still ugly.

7. Riddled with Bullets

We left the obvious one to the last. No one likes bullets except a lazy presenter. There are times when they work, but in this case, it’s not the odd bullet that kills, it’s the clipful. More than 3 on a slide, you may want to begin exercising a little control.

Fear, time and blindness are behind many a bad presentation. Fear because public speaking is no fun, time, well who has any? And blindness because we don’t see it done well very much.  Hopefully these tips will confine the frightening to Halloween.

tl;dr?

About The Author

GavinGavin McMahon is a PowerPoint obsessive. He’s a founding partner at fassforward Consulting Group, and blogs about PowerPoint, Communication, Infographics and Message Discipline at makeapowerfulpoint.com. You can tweet to him @powerfulpoint or connect on Google+.

Photo credit: joshua alan davis via photopin cc, ojimbo via photopin cc, @CoSkills at Instagram.

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