What’s the (Power)Point?


We’ve just come back to the office after our two-day annual conference. The conference is always held in January and its purpose is to get the Macmillan English Campus team together to reflect on what we’ve achieved in the past year, to look forward to what we’ve got planned for the year ahead and to share inspiration and ideas with each other. Each team is required to prepare a presentation (or sometimes two or three) and in the days and weeks leading up to the conference, we’re all neck-deep in a sea of PowerPoints and handouts and hastily organizing nervous practice runs.

Some of us are used to public speaking – many used to be teachers, the Sales and Training teams present to customers regularly and I have given talks and workshops at conferences quite a few times now – but I don’t think that makes it less of a challenge. There’s nothing like presenting in front of your colleagues. I’d rather present to five hundred strangers than a handful of Publishing Directors! So the pressure was on to do a good job.

But, with two days of back-to-back slideshows, how can you keep your audience awake and enthralled and prevent ‘death by PowerPoint’?

To animate or not to animate? That really is the question. Personally, I’m all for adding a little on-screen pizzazz. A subtle ‘dissolve on entrance’ and an opportune picture popping onto the screen can go a long way in keeping your audience’s attention. All firmly tongue-in-cheek, of course. There’s no need to go completely OTT, however. Getting carried away with your custom animation will leave you overwhelmed with too many clicks and you’ll be left bumbling along at the front of the room à la David Brent while your audience are laughing at you, not with you.

This didn’t happen yesterday, though. I was well impressed with my colleagues’ presentations and with their presenting skills. We were treated to an extravaganza of well-thought-out, professional PowerPoint presentations and, when they were animated, it was to absolute perfection. If anyone got carried away at all, it was me. But then I was given the second-day, post-lunch graveyard shift, by which time we were all in need of a bit of sensory stimulation in the form of flashing screenshots and sound effects.

Do you have any tips for creating the perfect PowerPoint? We’d love to hear them!



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