Dr Shaun Ridley.
Dr Shaun Ridley.

Karaoke is one of the most polarising late night pastimes – you either love it or hate it.

No one is undecided about their views on karaoke and the two sides will always agree to disagree.

Where the two groups will come together, however, is on their dislike of karaoke in the workplace, especially when it involves a PowerPoint presentation.

We’ve all witnessed the scene where the businessperson rises and launches into a presentation using PowerPoint.

Dense, bullet point laden slides appear with 50 words in 12-point font.

Then, as if the audience is not put off already, the speaker decides to read the contents of the slide word-for-word.

Usually, this version of PowerPoint karaoke is preceded by the words, “I know you can’t read this but ….”.

Such an approach to presenting is wrong on so many levels, here are just a few:

It reflects lazy preparation on behalf of the presenter suggesting they could not be bothered learning their subject, so they cheated and put their notes on the screen.

It either assumes the audience can’t, or won’t, read it themselves.

Small font makes it impossible for the audience to read and it reflects a lack of understanding on what engages an audience – and what doesn’t.

So what can we do to ban this practice?

One positive approach is to develop the presentation and speaking skills of your people.

A range of helpful tips can be passed on to give people the confidence, skills and knowledge to engage their audiences better.

A Couple of Simple Tips

Think about the audience for your next presentation.

Select the oldest person in the audience and divide their age in half.

Then, use this number as the minimum font size on all your slides. This will force you to consider how much content to display on each slide.

If you have too much content for slides, provide a handout instead.

Our exposure to an amazing array of media and special effects every day is putting enormous pressure on speakers to be engaging and to connect with their audience.

Given this challenge, perhaps it is time to ban PowerPoint Karaoke in all future presentations in your organisation.

Dr Shaun Ridley FAIM is Deputy Chief Executive Officer (Learning and Development) at the Australian Institute of Management in WA. His extensive experience in leadership, strategy and learning and development has been gained through his work with hundreds of organisations, across all sectors both domestically and internationally.

The West Australian

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