A familiar criticism of PowerPoint presentations is that they are speaker-centric: They revolve around the speaker instead of the audience. Skilled presentation designers understand that a speaker-centric presentation is less about the format and more about the design and delivery. A PowerPoint presentation can be just as interactive as a roundtable discussion when constructed effectively.
We’ve written before about using sparse text and meaningful images to assist the speaker rather than replace the speaker. Building on this idea of the slide presentation as a tool rather than the message itself, here are five ways to facilitate discussion and interaction within a PowerPoint presentation.
1. Incorporate discussion questions.
With considerations to the size of the audience and the physical space and setup, use slides to pose thought-provoking and open-ended questions for whole group or small groups discussions. Open the floor to feedback and idea sharing. Practice strategies for encouraging participation (e.g., allow silence, reflect back, summarize).
2. Leave the podium.
Use a remote control to advance slides or enlist the help of an assistant.
3. Incorporate data handouts.
If data to be presented and discussed is lengthy and abundant, consider incorporating a separate handout. Some data may appear overwhelming compressed into a slide.
4. Darken the screen.
Emphasize discussion by periodically darkening the screen. This can typically be achieved by pressing B on the keyboard. Press B again to turn the screen on again.
5. Cultivate your own curiosity.
This may seem obvious, but sometimes we learn enough to present and then stop. Cultivate a deeper curiosity about the presentation topic. Search for news stories that relate or historical accounts that illustrate. A genuine curiosity for your presentation topic colors any presentation, is infectious, and offers ample fodder for discussions.
A stodgy or speaker-centric PowerPoint presentation has very little to do with the tool and more to do with how it’s used. By integrating discussion into the presentation, redirecting attention when it’s beneficial, and communicating a genuine curiosity about your topic, a PowerPoint presentation can be engaging and inspiring.