There is a tendency among most presenters when using visual aids – in particular PowerPoint – to display a slide and then start talking about it. The result is that their presentation is then being driven by their slides – the visual support has ended up in the spotlight! Presenters need to remember that they are the show – anything else is simply to help them to deliver their presentation and the audience to understand it.
Hence the advice from Presentation Skills coaches such as myself: “Say it, then show.” The perils of doing the opposite – showing, then saying – become all the more acute when a presenter displays a list of bullet points, or a selection of visual images, all at once. This means that the presenter loses any control of where the audience’s attention is directed, as they will inevitably start reading ahead. Most, but not all, slides therefore need to be displayed in a series of ‘builds’ so that the audience is looking at the point that the presenter is currently talking about.
Part of the reason for presenters taking a back-to-front approach to say it, then show is that they are often uncertain as to what comes next and use the appearance of a slide as their own prompt. To make an impact you must know what is coming next – so that you can ‘cue’ the reveal appropriately. This is made easy for you with the ‘Presenter View’ (aka Presenter Tools) facility that is built into Macs and is increasingly available on PCs as well. For me, this is the most valuable tool to any presenter as, rather than simply displaying the slide currently being projected, it also displays the next slide, the entire run of slides (enabling you to jump seamlessly to any point in the presentation) and other features such as Notes and a clock.
Finally, in order to make the say it, then show principle work to best effect you need a slide changer – and one with which you are completely comfortable, so preferably your own. And be sure to practice – cueing is, after all, about timing!