I've heard the complaint more than once or twice that PowerPoint makes audiences feel isolated and alienated. I put it to you that it's not PowerPoint that does this; it's presenters and presentation designers. PowerPoint, after all, is merely a tool. And a very good tool at that.
In his book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Robert D. Putnam argues that we have become increasingly disconnected from one another and that social structures have disintegrated. In many places we can see how impersonal social structures have replaced traditional and more personal ones. People refer to others they have never met as "friends" on Facebook, for example.
Is PowerPoint guilty of widening the chasm between ourselves and our audience. Well, chasm is perhaps a dramatic over exaggeration. Again, it's not the tool at fault, but the user, if there is any chasm at all. If we sit alone in our office, isolated from our intended audience, there is a good chance that there will be a disconnect between ourselves and the people who receive our presentation. If we want to build that connection with our audience, we could do far worse than follow this advice:
- Be sociable, right from the very start. This means even before you create your first slide. Get input from people around you on the subject of your presentation.
- Bounce ideas of your work colleagues, family and friends to get valuable feedback.
- Before you deliver your presentation proper, give a run through much sooner. You will then have enough time to address any issue that come to light.
- Involving people during the design, creation and review stages has benefits other than a polished presentation. In asking people for their opinion, you communicate very clearly the message that you value them and their thoughts and ideas. You are unwittingly developing good relationships with those around you.
If you want your PowerPoint presentations to be engaging, you had better start engaging people right at the beginning of the process. Beautiful results await you if you do!