I have been giving PowerPoint workshops since PowerPoint was a pup, (so that means probably since the 1980s) and I still think it is a fantastic tool. However people are quick to criticise PowerPoint with derisive terms such as ‘death by PowerPoint’, however PowerPoint the product isn’t to blame – it is how a person uses it.
Here’s a quick suggestion list for how to make your presentations flow better and feel fresh, new and spontaneous.
- Try to use as few slides as possible. What I hear you gasp….isn’t it about showing off all my data? No it is not – the audience wants to feel special and engaged and they are more likely to feel that if you speak to them instead of fiddling with a mountain of slides. Use less slides and try to face and speak to the audience, even if you use cheat notes. And bonus – if you use less slides they are more likely to pay attention when you change to a new one as well.
- I’m sure you’ve heard this one before – don’t read from the slide. Yes it is tempting to do that, but the way you can get around it is not to have every little detail on the slide – stick with key points and then flesh them out yourself during the presentation.
- Don’t cram too much onto the slide (see above), firstly because you’ll want to read it and secondly because you don’t want to exhaust the audience with too much data, which by the nature of you having too much on the slide will be difficult to read anyway. If you can’t help it and have too much – well use another slide, talk about it or even use the whiteboard!
- Text Rules of Thumb:
– Try for no more than 6 bullet points per slide.
– If you are using numbers, use only one number per sentence as this helps the audience absorb the data.
– You might like the ‘Curlz’ font and you may not like large fonts – however it isn’t about you. Use legible fonts and font sizes because your goal is to communicate clearly. Test this out by sitting in the back row of the room where you will present and present to yourself just to be sure.
- Size Rules of thumb:
– Body text between point size 28 to 34 with a bold font recommended if you need the colour of the text to stand out.
– Heading size is defaulted to 44 and you should stick to around that size as well.
- While Microsoft does make sound, animation and crazy pictures available to you, that does not mean you should have a transition, animation or sound on every slide. Be conservative when adding any of these elements – once or twice or randomly makes your work interesting. Having clapping, a bouncing title or zig zag bullet points at every turn is just plain annoying. Know your audience too – sometimes there is simply no place for animation or a duck hitting a computer on the head full stop, so save it for another time and another audience.
- Engage with the audience – this means maintain eye contact, move around the room, use the whiteboard, vary your voice tone. If you are stuck staring at the back of someone’s head while they repeat the words on the slide the chances are you will be texting or doodling instead of listening – why would it be any different for your audience?
- Give the audience your handouts after the presentation is finished. If you give them out at the beginning you run the risk that they will not be as interested in listening to your presentation, as they will know all about it before you have begun or will be reading ahead and not even listening to you – which also makes you fair game for people jumping in with questions or tangents that you are intending to address later. You also risk confusion (or even boredom), if they have you reading the slide out loud, are reading it themselves on the screen and then reading it from the paper in their hands. Tell them you will give them a copy at the end and do so.
- Just because you came with 25 slides doesn’t mean you must show them. Presentations do go off track with questions and discussions (especially if you have engaged the audience) and sometimes a presenter finds they have lots of slides left but not much time. It makes better sense and makes you look more professional and less flustered if you simply skip some rather than racing through them at break neck speed.
I recently discovered The PowerPoint Ninja blog – a huge range of tips and seriously good advice from a PowerPoint guru – if you really want to read about the nuts and bolts go see the Ninja!