The Power of (Good) PowerPoint

If you follow my blog, you know that I often write about bad PowerPoint and how to make it better. I also write about the damage that is done by bad PowerPoint design. In a new twist on an old topic – this post is about a positive outcome of using PowerPoint correctly.

Some Background

I have a middle-school aged daughter.  My daughter has always been a little shy about public speaking, but the stresses of middle school have made her much more than a little shy. She’s now terrified of embarrassing herself in front of her classmates.

Recently, she was given an assignment in History class that involved an oral presentation on an historical figure. Selecting the topic and pulling together the report was no problem for my straight-A student. We downloaded a couple of kindle books on the subject and even made a trip to a museum that had a section dedicated to the subject.  But the oral presentation was looming over her, causing a great deal of stress in our lives. I met with her teacher to find out more about the project and he discussed with me the different visual aids that other students were putting together.  Basically, she was allowed to be as creative as she needed to be with visual aids. This was great news!

I immediately started a brainstorming session with her on what kind of visual aid might help her get through the oral presentation. Since she is a very creative person, she had several ideas immediately.  Her first idea was to dress up like the historical figure.  When I pointed out to her that this would draw all attention in the room to her directly, she quickly dismissed that idea and we discussed several others.  Then I suggested to her the idea of using my skills with PowerPoint along with her artistic creativity to make a PowerPoint that would send attention to the SmartBoard while she did her oral presentation.  We both loved this idea and got to work.

What We Did

Shown here one slide with 4 animations. It covers one sentence.

Shown here one slide with 4 animations. It covers one sentence.

My daughter and I created a very simple PowerPoint file – a blank background.  She had already written a draft of her oral presentation on note cards. I took the first note card and read the first sentence. I asked her what it made her think of. After some prompting, we came up with several visual images.  I then found free images on the internet of each of these things and built them on a slide using animations. Next, I had her read the sentence while I showed her the PowerPoint in slide view.  The slide had constant movement and exciting visuals during her entire sentence. It was almost like watching television.

She very quickly caught on, thinking of and finding her own images, and picking her own animation styles. She even started to add in her own flavor of humor.  (Example: When she discussed Marco Polo as a merchant living the life of an explorer – she put in a picture of “Dora the Explorer”.) The slides very quickly took shape telling an exciting story of Marco Polo, a trip across the desert, bandits, religious quests, wars, emperors, princesses, and prison. This was not a boring oral presentation!

Each visual image illustrated the sentence she was speaking making the oral presentation come alive and keeping the audience completely engaged in the story.  At the end of her visual aid work, she had a 16 slide deck with about 60 animations for a 3 minute oral presentation.  It’s quite a bit like Pecha Kucha or Ignite style presentations.  

Total Presentation

Next Steps 

Next, she had to practice her oral presentation with the PowerPoint deck so that she would be very familiar with it.  She practiced a few times at home.  The day before her presentation was scheduled, her teacher, her counselor, an administrator, and several of her friends took turns helping her practice in the actual classroom using the SmartBoard.  I can’t thank the school enough for taking an interest in helping her get through such a tough assignment.

2013-11-08 06.11.05The Result

My daughter woke up on the day of the presentation and didn’t show any signs of anxiety. She went to school, and knocked ’em dead with her presentation. I even received an email at home from a school administrator about how well Bailey did. Shown here is her grade report.

How Does This Apply to Corporate L & D? 

How many of you have to work managers or leaders in your organization to help them prepare for public speaking?  How many of those managers or leaders are introverts in their hearts?  Wouldn’t it be fantastic to help them build a visually stimulating PowerPoint which creates excitement in their presentation? Wouldn’t it be great to help them build a successful presentation that didn’t require them to step out of their comfort zone?  PowerPoint design can make a difference if you use it correctly – just as it can put an audience to sleep if used incorrectly.  Take some time to learn better PowerPoint techniques today!

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One Response to “The Power of (Good) PowerPoint”
  1. RB3 says:

    I love what you did with your daughters Power Point! More and more I am conviced PPT should just be visuals and we bring the word to life with the images on the screen. Keep up the GREAT blogging Leigh Anne.

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