Thursday, May 28, 2009

Don’t let PowerPoint® be a crutch

How many of you are a spokesman or spokeswoman for your company or organization? If so, you are the one that clients, employees, community leaders and other vested parties look to for information about new products or services, as well as leadership, industry trends and company direction. It’s a tall order, and too many executives think their delivery has to be ponderous and super serious.

To keep your information memorable, don’t rely too heavily on your PowerPoint® slides or Web page enlargement. It helps to project these images but don’t count on them to carry your speech. Inform your audience that the important points of your speech will be available to them (either online or as handouts), so they don’t have to fuss with extensive note taking. If you give the audience handouts prior to your talk, people will be shuffling through these papers rather than listening to you. (There are exceptions to this guideline, so you be the judge.)

Since most people won’t remember statistics, use them sparingly. Link the statistics to trends, which are easier to recall. Leave the esoteric examples up in the clouds. (Important statistics should be in your handouts or online charts.) Use examples that your audience can relate to … by linking them to current events, common annoyances (driving in heavy traffic), pop culture (using I-Pods while running or running errands) or heartfelt interests (kids, parents, neighbors and pets).

Inject your speech with humor. Use an approach that suits your style. Don’t try to be Jay Leno or Don Rickles. Low-key jokes work just fine. Presenters are often told to start with a joke that will loosen up the audience. Instead, get the audience’s attention with a great headline (use a startling fact or question), then space your “jokes” throughout your speech. The audience will be more attentive and have better recall when the jokes, stories and anecdotes reinforce your key message.