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High-Tech Presenting: Benefits and Challenges
By Randall P. Whatley, President, Cypress Media Group

Programs like PowerPoint can make a presentation more effective and powerful if they are used correctly. If they are used incorrectly, however, they can detract from an otherwise good presentation.

Programs like PowerPoint can make a presentation more effective and powerful if they are used correctly. If they are used incorrectly, however, they can detract from an otherwise good presentation.

Common mistakes made by using these audio-visual supports include the following:

  • Illustrating each word of the presentation
  • Creating too many slides
  • Going overboard on design features
  • Designing amateurish visuals
  • Substituting the audio-visual supports for effective verbal delivery

    Even thought many workplace audiences now expect visual support to presentations, the use of this technology creates distance between the presenter and the audience. This barrier makes it more difficult for the presenter to connect or "bond," with the audience.

    Technology also introduces another level of complexity to presentations, which causes more anxiety for the presenter. Instead of focusing on verbal communication with the audience, presenters using technology are distracted by a myriad of potential mechanical problems. Is all of the equipment compatible? Will you have to reboot your computer?

    Will the projector work? Is the computer capable of running the presentation graphics? All of these things can distract you from your presentation and cause you to lose your connection to the audience.

    Studies have proven that when presenters add a visual component to their presentations, the audience’s retention increases. Although the use of visual components is encouraged, presenters should construct their presentations so that the technological aspects of the presentation do not detract from their actual presentation. Presenters must bear in mind that the visual components of their presentations are designed simply to supplement and complement their presentations. It should not become the core of their presentation.

    PowerPoint users commonly make the following presentation mistakes.

    • Using too many slides
    • Using the slides as notes as their notes
    • Using copies of the slides as handouts
    • Using the animation feature in either a repetitive motion or with too much moving text
    • Overusing animation features, transitions, and sound effects

    These PowerPoint presentation mistakes can be corrected practicing the following two rules:

    • Fewer slides are usually better
    • Each slide should have a specific purpose and create a stronger impact than your verbal explanation that accompanies the slide

    Another mistake is putting too much information on a slide. Presenters exhaust their audience by making them read too many words. This works against you in at least two ways: First, it's distracting. Second, people can read much faster than you or I can talk, so if the presenter gets up there and starts reading slides, it's going to be redundant- and, boring!

    Many presenters who embrace technology actually approach the task of preparing their presentation backwards. "Techies" who use presentation tools like PowerPoint often think first about their visual component. They think primarily about having fun creating their slides. Unfortunately, this method only leads to rigid, linear, and boring presentations.

    What is missing from these types of presentations?

    The following are essential ingredients of a good presentation:

    • Human bonding with the audience
    • Addressing the specific needs and desires of the audience
    • Physical and emotional bonding between the presenter and the audience
    • Adequate refinement and practice time with the presentation
    • Audience involvement created by questions and answers, stories, jokes, and hands-on activities

    How should you prepare a technology-based presentation correctly? First, make some abbreviated notes about the presentation. Then, answer the following questions:

    • What information do I have that is complicated?
    • How can I simplify this complicated information with a good graphic?
    • How and where can I enliven my presentation?
    • How can I make sure that I do not read my slides?

    Finally, practice using the technology until you are completely comfortable with its operation.

    Randall P. Whatley, is a 26-year media veteran with diverse business experience. Whatley is president of Cypress Media Group, Inc. ( ), an Atlanta-based advertising, public relations, and training firm. He has extensive experience advising government officials, political candidates, public officials, and corporate executives on media relations and presentation skills. He has also written two syndicated newspaper columns and numerous magazine articles. Whatley has hosted his own television and radio program and appeared often as a TV and radio program guest, including a CNN appearance. He has produced hundreds of TV and radio ads and taught a myriad of seminars ranging from Public Relations Writing to Media Relations. He can be reached by e-mail at

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