Thursday, June 4, 2015: How often is PowerPoint abused? As a passionate user of the platform – some say to a fault – please don’t let me count the ways. I may not end.
With a staggering 500 million PowerPoint users creating roughly 150 million presentations every week, the days of filling a blank PowerPoint slide with content and throwing in some random clip art or a low resolution image should be long gone.
Sadly, most people never do justice to the creativity PowerPoint allows. Not even close.
Any presenters reading the above and feeling a twinge of guilt should sit up and take notice – you need to recreate your slide deck if you want your audience to take you seriously.
When it comes to creating PowerPoint presentations that will enhance your delivery and engage your audience, here are my five golden rules.
1. Don’t make it hard for your audience to listen to you
You are not living in the Stone Age (aka Death by PowerPoint) where slides look like this:
Or even worse…
Let’s be honest, you can’t expect your audience to give you their undivided attention when they are squinting to read the slides!
I understand the need (and agree) to present slides with accurate information, especially when presenting to potential investors or a professional audience. But remember your presentation is not the sole source of information for your audience.
Your slides should be designed to support the speaker, not replace them. Slides with reams of text may be accurate, but they negate the need for a speaker at all! The job of the speaker is to bring the slides to life, not be supplanted by them.
Speakers from industries where accuracy is paramount hate generalising or “dumbing down” highly technical details in their slides, preferring to use jargon to maintain the accuracy of their product. This is a mistake.
By simplifying your text, any small amount of accuracy you lose is more than compensated by allowing your audience to understand the basics of your corporate story.
This is critical: If you lose your audience in the first five minutes, they are lost forever.
Unsure of how far you need to “dumb it down” your presentation? Imagine presenting this to your grandmother. If she understands it, your audience will too.
2. Use relevant imagery
Make a point to use relevant and eye-catching visual aids in your presentation – the use of visual aids dramatically improves engagement and memory retention in your audience:
- An estimated two thirds of all people are visual;
- One fourth of our brain is devoted to processing visual information; and
- Combining images with text or speech increases retention by 40%.
Include visual aids such as icons, infographics, graphs and charts to replace text. And if you can’t afford to hire a graphic designer, there is a lot you can do to jazz up your slides by trying one of the many free graphic design software programs out there.
For beginners, I highly recommend Canva, Piktochart or Prezi to create stunning visual aids to bring your presentation to life. If you already have some basic graphic design knowledge, and would like to take it to another level, try Inkscape.
3. Don’t be afraid of empty space
Less is more. No really, it is.
I can’t stress enough how important simplicity is for creating a high impact presentation.
Don’t feel compelled to fill up the slide. Empty space on a slide doesn’t make you an inefficient presenter. In fact, the use of empty space is similar to using deliberate pauses in your speech; it helps keep your audience engaged by allowing them to absorb the key message(s) on your slide.
4. Be Consistent
In the ideal world of PowerPoint, a slide deck will adhere to a level of consistency so each slide paints a part of the story you are trying to convey. Following a few basic rules and a keen attention to detail can do wonders:
- Aim to keep header and content fonts consistent in type and size. It is OK to use a few different font types but make sure they are not used randomly. People do notice!
- Don’t throw in irrelevant icons, clip art or imagery to fill space. It will only backfire on you.
- You don’t drive your car outside of road margins, so why would you ignore PowerPoint margins?
- Don’t overwhelm your slides with jarring/clashing colours. Keep it simple.
Follow those simple rules and you will be surprised how much of a difference it makes.
5. Be Confident!
The best slide deck will never be complete without a confident presenter.
You put the slides together, you know the content. Be confident, do several dry runs and own the presentation. Wow your audience!