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Let the speaker do the talking

I had a great interview this morning with Denis-François Gravel, an authority on how to use presentation technologies to improve your ability to communicate.

In preparing for this conversation, recorded for my French-language podcast “Radio Passion au Profit“, we had a whole list of topics. But we ended up going deep into one issue: Does PowerPoint kill or enhance our ability to communicate?

The biggest idea that I learned from Denis-François is that most people (including me) misunderstand the role of presentations technologies like PowerPoint, Keynote, and Impress: we try to make the presentation stand alone, and the presenter becomes a technician, instead of the other way around like it should be.

It turns out that the brain can learn well by paying attention to the spoken word alone, or the written word alone, but learning efficiency drops way off when trying to communicate using both channels at once.  I’ve seen this happen when I put up a wordy slide and all the eyes go to the screen instead of staying on me.

Denis-François recommends that the slides should use colourful pictures or clear graphics that complement the message delivered by the speaker. Let the audience focus on the speaker.

I’ve been trying this (without realizing it) in my last couple of speeches, using very simple illustrations or short messages on my slides. I find it looks more professional and I get fewer people squinting at the screen as I speak.  Plus it has the added benefits of making sure that I communicate my point clearly…and that the audience pays attention because -there-are-no-notes!

Takeaway: If your handout says it all, then why would the audience waste their time listening to you?

For more information:

Denis-Francois Gravel and his primarily English-language blog full of great examples and ideas about presentation techniques:  http://www.PRESENTability.com

Denis-Francois Gravel on Twitter: http://twitter.com/PRESENTability

Photo: Catherine-Eve Gadoury (Quebec City arts and media columnist) at the Quebec City PechaKucha (photo Denis-Francois Gravel)

Read Denis-Francois’s article on the event (great tips!) http://presentability.com/2009/12/04/7-speaking-lessons-from-pecha-kucha-quebec/

My interview with Denis-Francois Gravel on Radio Passion au Profit (French) and on YouTube (links coming soon)

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Fran Jeanes January 13, 2010, 15:52

    I have never been able to fathom why someone presenting bothers to replicate everything they are going to say on their slides – I can read just as well as they can! 🙂

    Thanks Davender for the great reminder to use the slides as complements to the content you are giving, as opposed to elements competing with your presentation.

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