Improving your PowerPoint Presentation delivery skills
Updated: Jun 16
Stuck inside during the pandemic, a lot of us are using this chance to develop our professional skills. Hopefully developing your presentation and public speaking skills are among those!
In this post want to introduce you to a really interesting tool I discovered for self-improvement when it comes to using PowerPoint slides in public speaking. Its called the Microsoft PowerPoint Coach, and it’s a free PowerPoint add in.
Generally I dislike most PowerPoint presentations. I don’t hate the software, rather the way its used. My top 3 complaints being:
1) Presenters misuse it. Instead of it being a delivery platform to show media (photos, video, charts, etc) its a teleprompter to read way too much text (usually while facing away from the audience) while slowly boring everyone to death. Audience members tend to disengage from the presenter when they read or look at the slides – which they do, even when they read/stared at the slide already for so long there is no more value to extract from them but they just stare blankly at them.
2) When we create a slide deck and something changes in the meantime, we still feel compelled to show all the slides we created even if there are more productive uses of our public speaking opportunity. If you stumble on a hot-point, instead of exploring spontaneous opportunities, you want to show the next slide
3) A good slide deck takes FOREVER to prepare. For a 1 hour presentation with 15-20 slides, you need at least a whole day for a decent slide deck.
But nonetheless PowerPoint is still useful, and for certain presentations (i.e. board level presentations), its expected. Especially where we have to present new information that we might not know really well yet, if we are presenting someone else’s information, if we have a large audience (too many for a flipchart/whiteboard, so lets say 20+ people), or if we have key visualizations we have to show and discuss. Slides are sharable, editable, and easy to use without having to learn or install new software.
Well now Microsoft has decided to help its users utilize their product better, and I like what they have done. This is one great example of how technology can help not only end-users but also coaches like me help their clients reach the top of their presenting game.
Prerequisites: you’ll need a Microsoft One / Office 365 account (the free version works too).
1) Upload the PPT slides that you want to practice with
2) Open the slides
3) Select “slide show” and then
4) Rehearse with coach
Then click the start button and start presenting. When you stop, you will get a report. This add-in does quite a lot! It coaches you on the obvious stuff like
Filler words i.e. “You know”… “ummm” “ahhhhh” and so on. In this video, a staple of public speaking coaches everywhere, let's look at a very unprepared Caroline Kennedy with 142 “you knows” in less than 30 minutes in this video
Slide reading: If you are reading too much from the slide (this is the #1 turnoff of audiences, when the presenter reads their slides). Nonetheless people do it. Tip for everyone: use my 3x3 slide method that there should be maximum 3 words per line, 3 lines, or 9 words in total on a slide. Then YOU fill in the details.
Vulgarity: (or as its called here, "sensitive words"). Most of us don’t need this feature. Generally using vulgar language is limited to situations like if the projector or computer quits in the middle of your talk, and isn't a part of our presentation, but just in case you are trying to be like Gary Vee or Tony Robbins and make every other word a F*** bomb, the application will remind you that it’s not a good idea.
So that stuff is great for beginners, but this tool also gives insights on the not so obvious stuff. What I really liked, and what I can see helping me with my clients in the classroom, is the measurement of more difficult metrics, for example:
Reading speed: There are different theories on which speed to speak at. Slower speech is better for speaking to international audiences who need an extra second of mental processing time, but if you are from New York pitching to a bunch of New Yorkers, a slow pace will irritate your audience. There have been 2 studies about speaking speed, one recommending a slow pace, the other, a fast one. One explanation which was floated is that when you are speaking to an audience about something they want to hear, the slower pace is ideal. Then they can really warm up to you, and your idea. And if you are speaking about something that the audience might not agree with, then speak quickly, as the listeners mind will not have enough time to come up with counter arguments. Although that technique can also lose the audiences trust. Read more about that here. In any case, the key thing to remember is that fast or slow, vary your pace so as not to bore the audience and whenever you get to something important SLOW DOWN and PAUSE so your audience can get it. This app shows you your speaking speed across your presentation.
Pitch variation. This is one that even I need some help with as a trainer and coach. Sure I can tell someone if they sound “kind of monotone” but what does it mean? This app quantifies this by showing your pitch throughout your talk that you can see for yourself where you need to perk up or drop down your tone. This mostly shows the big picture. In practice, drop your tone when making a claim or statement, and raise it when asking a question (a raised tone can change a simple word into a question)
In closing: Its not perfect, for example I found the tolerances for reading the slides were quite strict. I had to read the slide exactly, almost work for word, for it to register. I would like to see that a bit looser to catch even when we read, let’s say, 50% of the slide. But overall, its quite good for a free service.
The chances are that your talks will be virtual for the immediate future, but everything listed above is just as important to virtual talks as real ones - maybe even more so, as we lack the physical presence, our voice and delivery becomes even more important.
So have fun if you decide to try it, and let me know how it goes! I hope this tip helped you – check our blog for new posts coming soon!