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Christopher B. Contois



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To the Point

Christopher B. Contois

Why doesn't George Bush use PowerPoint?
(aka How to Write for PowerPoint)

This is a debatable question. However, let's approach it in this way: one does not need to utilize slides in order to give an effective speech. In fact, if PowerPoint is not utilized properly, it can be a distraction and water down your message, thus creating an effect opposite of that intended. Animated objects on the screen can perform similarly to a banner on a website, causing a diversion from your intended goal. Text too, can show up at inopportune times and could weaken your message instead of reinforcing it. Consider this: When you advance a slide, what does your audience do - listen to you, or read the slide? These points should be kept in mind when developing slides.

To PowerPoint Or Not To PowerPoint
When preparing a speech one of the first thoughts that usually occurs is the use of PowerPoint to assist with your messaging. PowerPoint should not be used as a crutch, but rather an enhancer or clarifier of your message. To put PowerPoint to good use, the process is as follows: Clear Your Head The first, most important step to creating a speech is to remove all thoughts about utilizing slides, animation, dramatic lighting, lasers, audio, and any other special effects. Your mind needs to remain on the speech. Write the speech by following the appropriate steps for writing an effective speech. If you need assistance, there are several hundred resources located on the Internet. My personal favorite is located at:

Don't Throw Away Your Outline!
Once you have completed writing your speech, sit down and review your outline. Are there parts that are unclear? Is there a section full of numbers? These may cause confusion. Can you replace "In 2000 we made 12.8 billion and in 2001 we made 27.2 billion." with an easier phrase? For example, "Our revenues more than double over last years". You should not be thinking about visual aids just yet. You must first be sure that each section of your speech is clear and concise. Remember, you can always include handouts with specific, accurate data.

How Many Slides Does It Take To Create The Perfect Presentation?
Are some major points still unclear, no matter how you try to describe them? Would a visual aid assist greatly in clarifying these messages? Once you are certain that your presentation is in need of something to emphasize a point, you may want to consider utilizing visual aids. Remember, you do not need a slide for each and every instance, only for those that will truly benefit from having visual aids. Otherwise, do not use them. Too many could distract listeners from the message you are trying to portray.

Lastly, I was recently told about a speaker who utilized 4 slides for an hour-long speech. A set quota of slides is not required. It takes much more time to prepare a well thought-out and concise speech. The underlying benefits to fewer cleaner slides and visual aids is that your speech will get across much more information in a shorter amount of time, and will have a greater impact on the listener.


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