Public Speaking and PowerPoint

Creating Helpful Visual Aids

As a public speaker, you may want to utilize visual aids to help get across your main points when speaking. With presentation software like Microsoft PowerPoint, this is easy to do, but there are some things you will want to keep in mind while developing your slides. After all, there are both advantages and disadvantages to using PowerPoint, and you want to prepare a series of slides that will contribute something meaningful to your speech or presentation without creating unnecessary distractions.

Keeping all that in mind, the following list of goals for using Microsoft PowerPoint in a speech setting should be helpful in helping achieve a professional presentation:

  1. Help listeners in the audience process and retain information.
  2. Promote interest and motivation by appealing to different learning styles.
  3. Convey information concisely.
  4. Lend a professional image.

Appealing to different learning styles is a particularly useful aspect of using slideshow software like Microsoft PowerPoint, as multimedia slides can help visual learners retain more information from your speech.

PowerPoint's Powerful Tools

Organizing Your Presentation

PowerPoint and similar presentation software offers public speakers powerful tools for creating and showing professional visual aids. With PowerPoint, you can import video and sound for a true multimedia presentation, and you can also modify and revise aids right up to the time when you present them. Of course, if you are editing your multimedia presentation, make sure you organize your personal notecards in the same manner, or you will risk losing your place when giving a speech.

Another benefit of PowerPoint is that the limited space on each slide forces you to emphasize more important points. After all, no one tries to fit their entire speech, word for word, onto a PowerPoint slide. If you think you are placing too much information on one slide, just remember to use the 8x8 rule: No more than 8 words of text on a line, and no more than 8 lines on a single slide. Personally, I think even that is a little much, and I recommend using one or two key statements on a single slide.

Presentation Options

Transitions, Video, and Images

Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation

PowerPoint presentation options include AutoContent Wizard, which can allow you to choose a type of presentation from several dozen options. There is also the Design Template, with even more options for templates. You can also start with the simple Blank Presentation mode, which lets you start from scratch on your presentation and customize everything yourself. Whichever template you start with, your options for adding multimedia content will always be consistent. You can add video clips, transition and animation effects between slides, and whatever pictures or clip art you want to add to your PowerPoint slideshow.

When embedding video clips into a slide, remember that those files must be saved in the same folder as the .pptx file itself. You will also want to test sound levels and codec compatibility on the machine you will be using for your presentation. Lack of preparation could lead to an embarrassing minute at the podium as you try to get your video to playback properly!

A much less complicated option for adding visual panache to your PowerPoint is to simply use jpegs or other image files. These can be any type of art or picture you want to use to emphasize or draw attention to your topic. One of the best types of picture files to use in a speech full of facts and figures are pie charts or bar graphs that succinctly deliver statistical information.

To transition between slides, you can use motion and/or sound effects, also known as builds. However, remember to only use these effects sparingly, as overuse can draw attention away from the presentation itself and undermine the speaker’s main points. Also remember to stay consistent with your transitions in PowerPoint to keep a strong uniform design with your slides.

Connecting With Your Audience

People Before PowerPoint

Multimedia software like Microsoft PowerPoint is great for putting audio, video, and images together into a single production, but if you don’t have access to PowerPoint in the setting for your speech, other options are available. The simplest is probably using a dry erase or chalkboard to quickly sketch visual cues for your speech, although that can seriously slow down your presentation. Another option is overhead transparencies, which you can also make copies of and use as handouts - pages with information meant to be kept by the audience even after the speech is over.

Whichever technology you use in creating a visual aid for your speech, remember that the most important part is connecting with your audience and communicating your topic effectively to them. Here are a final list of tips for making sure you emphasize the role of your audience more than the role of your PowerPoint slides:

  • Don't let the tech get in the way of relating to the audience.
  • Talk to the audience, not the screen.
  • Have a backup plan in case of technical errors.
  • Visual aids should complement, not distract or detract from, your central message.

If you remember and utilize these tips, you will be well on your way to creating an effective multimedia slideshow that will improve, but not overshadow, your speech.