Tim Washer. Keynote Speaker + Event Emcee


Tagged ‘speaker‘

When Powerpoint Attacks: 6 survival tips


If you forced me to rank the places where I would most prefer not to look like an idiot, the Harvard Kennedy School would come in fourth.   Or maybe sixth.  Some of history’s most eminent figures have spoken there, like Jack Donaghy.
But even after a successful tech-check before the presentation, things can go terribly wrong.  Especially if you’ve embedded videos into a powerpoint presentation.

I was attempting to show two commercials, but another video popped up, and what’s worse, the audio was out of synch with the video.  But here’s what I’ve learned:

1)    Take a deep breath and relax.  You’re still in control of how you respond.  One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from a decade of standup comedy is that audiences are incredibly empathetic.   If you’re having a good time, they are.  If you’re stressed out, they are.  Audiences want you to be successful.   It’s important that you understand and remind yourself that they are rooting for you.

2)    Bring backup.  I always carry a copy of my presentation on a USB stick and load the file on a backup presentation computer if available — the AV folks usually have one.

3)  Bring a short 3-4 minute video about your topic on a DVD.  Give it to the AV folks during the tech run-through.  If there is a problem, they can play your video to give the audience something to watch other than you sweating, while the tech folks are resolving the issue.

4) Take an improv class.  You may have to do it on a dare.  I came very close to running out of my first improv class in 1998 at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade theater.  It was scary to get through, but has changed my life.  Give it a shot.

5) Have an alternative slide-free version of your story ready to tell.  It’s important to be ready to present a compelling case without powerpoint slides, as I sometimes have to do when negotiating with my wife.  Hard to believe but history has witnessed a few speeches that went pretty well without foils and an overhead projector:  the Gettysburg Address, the Sermon on the Mount and King Henry V’s Crispian Day speech.  To be fair, one of those speakers relied on 3×5 index cards and was a fictional character.

6)    Get a Mac.

A Comedian’s Perspective on Improving PowerPoint

I put together a few tips on engaging with your audience in your powerpoint presentation… republished from the McCombs alumni newsletter:

  • Do your homework: Reach out to a handful of people before your presentation and ask what is the most important question on this topic that they would like answered. Not only will your material be more relevant, but you’ve let a few audience members know their opinion counts. It will have a positive influence on the energy in the room.
  • Less is more. One executive I’ve worked with, let’s call him “Charlie,” used to introduce cluttered slides with the useless disclaimer, “I know not everyone in the room can read this….” He failed to discern subtle nonverbal cues from audience members like squinting—or exiting.   The most influential slides I’ve seen deliver their message with only three to five words. It allows for an easy-to-read slide and keeps the focus on you. I never use a font smaller than 30-point, unless I’m presenting to a very small group or negotiating with my wife.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. Although my English literature professor assured me this ratio doesn’t apply for a midterm essay, it holds true for PowerPoint. Since our minds absorb visual information faster, it’s a much more powerful way to convey your point. Impress your audience with a classic from Corbis.com, ShutterStock.com or even Flickr.com. My friend Charlie made the exchange and still had a few words left over.
  • Tell stories. Everyone loves a good story. Use client examples, or find a relevant reference through WSJ.com, NYTimes.com or an industry trade publication. Simplify the tale with the narrative formula: a) problem, b) solution, c) results. For a good story, those are the only elements you need. And possibly a dragon.
  • Schedule 20 minutes, and finish early. People love to get time back.

And finally, the most important rule bears repeating: always avoid redundancy.