(Part 1 of 2)
Even discounting the source, we all know that there are a lot of PowerPoint presentations going on: Microsoft says 30 million a day. Our favorite corporate employee, Dilbert, bemoans the high risk of “PowerPoint poisoning” caused by the 95 percent market share PowerPoint has in presentation tools.
So how do you avoid spreading the dread disease with your presentation? In this article, we’ll look at the tool itself. It isn’t PowerPoint’s fault that many presentations today leave us nodding off; it is definitely our problem as presenters. Part 2 will focus on perfecting your personal presentation style.
Absolutely, Positively Never…
• Use a standard PowerPoint (PP) design. At the very least, change the color scheme from the designs that come with the program. If you are serious about improving your PP, visit Web sites that provide new, interesting designs. These include:
- http://www.pixelmill.com/, and
A Google search for “PowerPoint templates” will also give you plenty of options. Some have a fee; some are free.
• Read from the PP slide. You are the presenter. PP is your backup singer. The information on the slide is to clarify, support and spotlight the information you are vocally giving the audience. Have you ever seen James Taylor walk back to stand beside his backup singer and give her the lead mike?
• Fill the slide. The audience is listening to you. They can’t simultaneously read 20 bullet points on a slide or read your personal novella in 10-point type. Large blocks of information the audience needs should be handed out in hard copy so the audience can read the details after your presentation. They should be too busy listening to you to get to the fine print.
• Use animation on every slide. Yes, PP is a visual tool. But if slide after slide has swooshing animations for every bullet and every picture, the tool becomes a hammer pounding the audience into a coma. Animation must have a purpose. There is not a prize for having the highest count of animations of anyone in the industry.
• Use the three-slides-per-page format for your handout. That format with three slides and the little lines on the right side of the page has been used so much that it will cause PP poisoning in half of the audience as soon as you hand it out. Your audience is intelligent enough to know they can take notes on their handout.
Absolutely, Positively Always…
• Build your content first. This is the #1 most critical step and, for some of you who love the “toys” aspect of PP, the most difficult. Yet it is a guaranteed method to build a good PP presentation. Use the Outline View and build your content first. Don’t choose a slide layout. Don’t choose a design template. Instead:
- Type the main points you want to make in the presentation. Put them in the order where you have the best flow of thought for your case.
- Add in the crucial bullet points you need to emphasize.
- Add in the graphics that support your position.
By focusing on content first, you ensure that your information is taking precedence over the appearance of the information. Keep your priorities straight!
Remember the joke you pulled on the boss? You brought in a beautifully decorated cake. Sugared violets, scalloped trim around the edges, scripted “Happy Birthday” in her favorite color. But when she cut into the cake something was wrong! The decorations were on a piece of foam. That’s a PP that has been built design first. It looks good, but it doesn’t satisfy anyone.
• Use graphics instead of words whenever possible. You are giving the audience the words. Use graphics to illustrate your point instead of bullet points. PP allows you to create a looped series of photos to demonstrate project progression or installation methods. Videos can also be inserted on a slide and run to back up your information. Scan small segments of forms or diagrams as visuals when you’re discussing work flow or paperwork.
• Use the appropriate slide layout. Choose a slide layout that fits your information. Don’t add in text boxes unless you have no choice. Using the slide layouts allows you to change and update your presentation much more easily. Change the Slide Master, and all of your slide titles are automatically updated to the new font size and color. Add custom bullets to the Master, and all of the bullets for the entire presentation change instantly.
Using the Slide Master lets you customize the PP to your specific audience. Use the school team colors for the short list interview. Use a state flag as a bullet for your presentation to a state’s department of transportation management team.
• Practice! Every artist rehearses, whether he’s Tiger Woods or Mick Jagger. You need to practice, too. Even if you wrote the presentation. Even if you’ve been discussing the subject for half of your life. The practice time will help you coordinate what you’re saying with what the audience is seeing. The next slide should be a surprise to the audience, not to you.
During one practice session, try to step back and look at the PP from your audience’s point of view. Are you using any unfamiliar words or terms? Are you answering their questions or presenting your solutions? Is the flow of the presentation logical and comfortable for them?
• Create a flexible PP. Today you have an hour to do your presentation. Tomorrow you have 30 minutes. Monday the focus is on Project A. Thursday the focus is on Project D. Build one solid PP that can be used in multiple situations. It’s very easy in PP to rearrange slides to change the focus. You can hide slides to trim down to 30 minutes. By taking the time to build one really solid PP, you can accomplish multiple goals. Don’t throw together 10 presentations in a big rush and waste all of your precious time. Use one presentation 10 different ways.
• Use the Notes Page format. Every presenter, regardless of experience, needs support. The Notes section of PP can be your best friend. Insert your supporting facts, statistics and examples. Type them in a point size that is easy for you to read during your presentation. Then if someone asks a question that is out of sequence, you can answer it but use the notes to get right back on track. You won’t skip that vital point you were about to make. If you have a “senior moment,” your notes will catch you. You won’t use the same example twice when a different example would have been better. Using notes helps you fine tune your content.
Content is the point of PowerPoint!