How to avoid multimedia presentation pitfalls

How to use multimedia to engage your audience, not tune them out.

If anyone knows what makes a good presentation, it's Chris Anderson.

Anderson is curator of TED, whose biannual conferences challenge "the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers" to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes or less.

Anderson recently shared his top tips in Harvard Business Review, including his thoughts on how multimedia can best aid - or quickly kill - a talk:

1. If you have to use PowerPoint, keep it simple

Don't use slides as a substitute for notes - which you shouldn't use, anyway, he adds. Don't list what you're going to talk about via bullets and whatever you do...

2. Don't read the slides

"Information is interesting only once, and hearing and seeing the same words feels repetitive," Anderson notes. "That advice may seem universal by now, but go into any company and you’ll see presenters violating it every day."

3. Don't use slides

"Many of the best TED speakers don’t use slides at all, and many talks don’t require them," he says. "If you have photographs or illustrations that make the topic come alive, then yes, show them. If not, consider doing without, at least for some parts of the presentation."

4. Avoid abstract or conceptual language

Your message is useless if no one knows what you're talking about. You may think you sound smart, but your audience will feel dumb and tune out.

5. Use video wisely

The most powerful way to communicate is the old axiom "show, don't tell." Video is the perfect medium for that. Why describe something for people when they can see it for themselves?

However, Anderson cautions there are several pitfalls to avoid when it comes to video:

  • Keep clips to 1 minute or less. Any longer and you risk losing your audience's attention.
  • Don't use any video that sounds like an infomercial. "People are conditioned to tune those out," he notes.
  • Don't use video with a soundtrack. Anderson calls it "dangerously off-putting."

via Harvard Business Review

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