Ditch PowerPoint and engage your audience: Garr Reynolds

Death by PowerPoint presentation has become the norm but strong images and small amounts of data are better at engaging your audience, according to communications consultant Garr Reynolds.

Speaking at the Tableau Conference on Tour in Melbourne, Reynolds told delegates that audiences are more likely to be moved by images than lots of text.

He gave the example of Bill Gates who used PowerPoint during his Microsoft days but has now moved on to simpler presentations when talking about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“His [Gates] presentation has lots of data but it’s in the context of a narrative and mixed in with images.” For example, Gates used the image of children in Africa doing their homework under streetlight to illustrate the problem of communities not having electricity.

“If Bill Gates can improve, than everyone can improve,” said Reynolds.

He also gave the example of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs who preferred to use whiteboards during Apple company meetings. When Jobs presented to an audience during Apple product launches, he tended to use very large images that everyone could see.

When planning a presentation, Reynolds said the theme of the speech had to be simple. He pointed out that movies are two or three hours long but the tagline is one sentence.

“You need exposition and a setup but only what is necessary. Usually we put in way too much background information,” he said.

Reynolds also encouraged presenters to use short videos and humour to keep the audience interested.

“If you look at the top 10 [most popular] TED talks, three of them use nothing but HD video throughout the whole presentation,” he said.

He pointed out that audiences pay most attention through the first few minutes of a presentation so engaging them early was important.

“At the beginning [of the presentation] people want you to be interesting. Every nine or 10 minutes you need to change things such as showing a video.”

Reynolds said he had witnessed many boring PowerPoint presentations given by presenters who don’t move around the stage.

Based in Japan, he said it is normal to see delegates at conferences sleeping.

“There is no engagement with the audience. If you want to make a difference in the world, you need to get out there and speak,” said Reynolds.

“If you are just going to read the slides, send us the document and we’ll read it.”

Hamish Barwick travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Tableau.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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