Powerpoint Problem: Reading Aloud

Never read Powerpoint slides aloud. Nothing is worse than a presenter back the slides out loud to the audience.

  • It is patronizing. I can read. I’ve been doing it for a while. I don’t need your help.
  • It shows your lack of expertise.If all you can do is read aloud it says that you literally don’t know anything that isn’t on the screen already. You might not even have written the content, you may just be a hired monkey reciting words other people wrote.
  • I can read faster than you can talk. Not just me. Everyone can. You read about five times faster than you speak. By the time you’re halfway through the slide your audience has already read the whole thing and has drifted off to a better place.
  • No one is listening to you. Because they’ve already read your slide.
  • You remove some of the only good things about Powerpoint. Words are in different fonts, they can be animated, they are in lists, they are set off or indented, they are bolded or italicized, etc. All of this is lost when you read aloud.

What’s a better way?

Some people are naturally visual learners (I am one of these). Some people are naturally auditory learners. Some people are naturally tactile learners. In a presentation you are involving the first two. You want to make sure that people from both groups come away understanding what you said. But simply presenting the same words in the same order won’t do it. Ideally, your words and the presentation should complement each other. No one learns exclusively in one mode, they simply prefer one over the other. Everyone learns best by getting elements of all styles.

When you are speaking, you should speak around what is on the screen. Say it in a different way. Emphasize a different portion. Explain how the last slide led to this one. Show how this is leading to the next portion. Pick out the highlights. Go more in depth on certain items. Make a joke or two.

When this is done, all kinds of learners are engaged in your content. The visuals enhance the auditory and vice-versa. The visual learners get what they need but have it reinforced by what they are hearing. The auditory learners get what they need but have it anchored by what is on the screen. Each gives context and depth to the other.

All of this is ruined if you simply read aloud. So don’t do it!

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