I think Microsoft should have taken some stock in the US Army. I can’t think of a single Army school I have been through that did not have at least one Power Point (PPT) presentation. Realizing that, we know as an Army leader we will be tasked with preparing a Power Point to “kill” our audience with. A PPT presentation can be a great way to communicate ideas and teach a class. Follow these tips to ensure that you are doing just that and not creating the old death by Power Point:
1. Establish a Clear Purpose for Your Presentation: Just like anything in the Army, having a clear purpose drives everything. Is the purpose of your presentation to inform Soldiers about a new regulation or weapon system? To persuade your Battle Staff to organize their information differently? Motivate your Soldiers? Teach new Soldiers about the fundamentals of breeching? Write down your purpose as this will keep your organized and focused.
2. Outline: Begin by listing the “bullet-points”, or key ideas that you want your audience to take away from your presentation. List as many as come into your mind. Then, go back and pick the top three that will help you achieve your original purpose. Organize your three main points in a logical order to create an outline in some form of chronological order.
3. Research: Yes, I know we are no longer in college, but that doesn’t mean we don’t conduct a little research. Look at your audience. What is their skill level, motivations, concerns, etc. Knowing these things will help you develop a presentation that sticks with your audience. Additionally, research your topic. Even if you are a SME, you can always learn something new. Use specific resources such as FMs, TMs, ARs, Part-Time-Commander.com, AKO, the list goes on and on.
4. Write a Draft: Even though you will be using PPT to deliver your presentation, take a sheet of paper and write out your presentation. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but it will help you focus your thoughts and prevent your from rambling on and on. Plan exactly what you will be saying!
5. Begin with an Exciting Opening: Break the ice and get people listening to you and interested in what you will be talking about. As an Armor Officer, I like to start some of my presentations with some videos of my MGS in action. Think of how you can relate the topic to the audience and how you can get them to be engaged. It might be a personal story, a joke or a video clip. Whatever you choose, always make sure your opening actually reveals and includes the topic of your presentation. For example, a hardcore music video with field artillery video footage doesn’t make sense when you will be talking about Financial Responsibility.
6. Use Personal Experience: Nothing worse than listening to a person talk and you get the vibe that they have no experience in that field. Connect with your audience by sharing a personal story about yourself that relates to the topic. It will increase your credibility and ultimately make people listen.
7. Do NOT Read from the Slides!: I repeat, do not read from the slides! PPT is a great tool but it is not a crutch. Use it to guide your presentation and provide visual aid. We can all read and nothing will make your Soldiers zone out and be distracted than someone reading from the slides. If you know your material and prepared properly, you don’t need the slides. Additionally, it makes you sound normal and that you know what the heck you are talking about.
8. End with a BANG!: Always, always, always summarize your main points from your presentation. Even if young Joseph nods off during your brief, you will be able to get the critical points across by summarizing your presentation. This step ensures that your audience walks away knowing exactly what you wished to convey to them. Use language or a visual aid that will stir your audience’s motivations.
FINAL THOUGHTS- No matter how you prepare your speech, ensure that it is brief and to the point! I saw an old poster from the 1920s that reads: “Say it with Snap! Longwinded talkers waste time: for themselves, for those listening. When you have something to say, GET TO THE POINT!”. Remember, the goal is to communicate ideas, not “kill” your audience with the old “death by PPT”.
What tips do you have for giving a PPT presentation? Do you have any questions? Just post any, and all below. Thank you.