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Successful PowerPoint Presentations

Here are some suggestions for getting the best out of a PowerPoint presentation.

PowerPoint doesn’t give presentations – it is a program that makes slides which help you give a presentation.  Yes, there is the ability to create a self-running presentation, but that’s another subject.

First and foremost, keep it simple, simple, simple.

It is natural for people to read the slide in preference to listening to what you are saying.  Steve Jobs (Apple) is a master at simple PowerPoint presentations.  He often just uses images to create an atmosphere around what he is talking about and what he wants to audience to hear.

  • In many ways, PowerPoint’s ease of use may be the worst feature you have to contend with – it is easy to get carried away!
  • The audience has come to hear you, not merely stare at images thrown by a data projector onto a screen.
  • Remember, you are creating a slide show to support the spoken presentation – to add to it, to make it more memorable.
  • Use charts that are easy to understand and can be read at the back of the room.
  • Some authorities suggest no more than five lines of text on any one slide – ask yourself: “Do you really need to have everything up on the screen?”
  • Handouts can contain more information – these are very useful for keeping the message in the audience’s mind after the event.
  • Don’t have too many numbers and statistics in slides – it might be better to project a picture rather than a set of numbers compiled by someone deep in statistician land.  Again, these can be added into the handout.
  • Don’t just turn your back on the audience and read the slide – this is not only rude, but why are you wasting your breath doing that?  Think about this for a while!
  • Time your remarks and the slide changes – you will loose the audience’s attention when a slide changes – they will concentrate on reading it and not on listening to you – make the slide changes happen when you are not speaking – it is after all only one click!
  • Don’t be afraid of a static picture or even a blank screen – give the audience a break.  This is especially important in a group discussion or questions/answers time.
  • Use vibrant, bold colours.  White text on a blue background can be very effective in conveying both a message and emotion.  Try a number of colour combinations – some work really well, others are nauseating!
  • Don’t be constrained by what PowerPoint has to offer – go into the web and find other images and graphics.  Try adding a short video clip in the presentation – if it will make the point better than a still slide and your voice, use it.  Add some humour to the content – it never fails.
  • Give out the handouts at the end of the presentation, not the beginning, unless it is absolutely imperative for the audience to have them beforehand.
  • Edit, edit, edit and trim – never lose the perspective of the audience – practice the presentation on people you trust and spend time getting it as great as possible.

Some thoughts on the technical side of things now:

  • Write in point form, not necessarily in complete sentences.  You’re just getting the point across not the whole text of your message.
  • Avoid using font sixes that are too small – anything below 24 or even 36 may get lost of the screen.
  • Use the “squint test” – go to the back of the room, squint your eyes and check that you can actually read what’s on the screen.
  • Don’t use too many fonts – better to stick to two or three, rather than get cute with fancy script fonts that look great on paper, but blurred on the screen.  Use a larger font for the main points and a smaller one for the secondary points.
  • Check the resolution of the projector you’re going to use (or monitors in a networked situation).  Some of your graphics may not work if the resolution settings are too large.
If you’re going to be doing a lot of presentations, make a template – yes, it will take time, but a template will standardise your presentations and will allow you to spend time on the content.

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