Backtalk — The Art of Reverse Presentations

You’d have to be a recluse not to have been the subject or the presenter of a PowerPoint® presentation. Today, the Prezi® has become a powerful presentation tool, too. And the Prezi has some very cool graphic enhancements that make it a fun tool to use.

While there are a limited number of people who have mastered the art of the PPT presentation and use them as they were intended, most of us fail miserably in developing and using the tried-and-true presentation program.

Why do I say most of us fail? Well, the general failure centers on our reliance on PPT to be our detailed outline and safety net so we don’t miss a single point, nor make a slip-up. But the PPT actually becomes tedious and boring when used wrongly as nothing more than a report written on a slide deck or a speech delivered in long-winded bullet points.

But the biggest offense I see in almost all instances is what I call, “reading from the screen.” Yes, with backside firmly turned toward the audience, the presenter reads from the slides, and all we get to see is someone marveling at his own verbiage or trying hard not to forget every critical point that must be made.

Stop reading the slides to us, the audience. We can read them from our handout, usually. Turn to us and talk. Use the version on the screen for reinforcement, not the Holy Grail.

Here are some other pitfalls to avoid:

1. Presenting way too much text. We’ve all seen the slide decks that look like, “War and Peace.” They not readable. “Ouch, those slides look like a flannel suit; they are so gray.”

2. Having too many slides. Some people think that 60-70 slides are perfectly doable in 60 minutes. Really? Maybe for Ms. Wood’s speed reading class.

3. Using narrative versus summation. Keep the material short. Keep it in bullet form. Use graphic cues instead of text.

4. Forgetting to tell a story. People listen to stories. Tell one. Give your material in a way that makes it interconnected, relevant to the audience and thematic in nature; and has a clear opening and close.

5. Treating your audience like children, unless, of course, they are. Talking down to the audience via simplistic and overly basic slides can insult them more than impress them.

While it is interesting to watch the back of someone’s head and look for dandruff or other characteristics, I’d prefer to see the presenter, eye-to-eye, thereby determining if she actually believes what’s being said.

One thought on “Backtalk — The Art of Reverse Presentations

  1. Mr. Parham hits the nail squarely on the head here. I have been subjected to ‘death by PowerPoint’ hundreds if not thousands of times in my career. While there may be a need for a lengthy presentation from time to time, the last thing anyone one wants is to be read to like a nincompoop. In my mind, a presenter who reads their slides must lack confidence in their own knowledge or lack respect for their audience. If you are a teacher, reading your slides gives ample opportunities for your students to check their e-mail, Facebook and post on Twitter about your poor presenting style. Well written article! (P.S. It was nice meeting you today at the pool – Joe)

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