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by Greg Roth

The Only 5 PowerPoint Tips You Need

There are over 500 million users of PowerPoint worldwide and more than 35 million presentations created every day. Most of them are terrible. They’re crowded, distracting, irrelevant, and ugly. They alienate audiences and kill presentations. This isn’t news to most conference goers, and yet, we continue to see bad PowerPoints. But, what I think IS news, is that it isn’t hard to use Powerpoint well.

There are tons of blog posts, articles, books, even courses all specifically geared towards helping you use PowerPoint more effectively. But, I don’t think it’s all that complicated. As part of my public speaking training to the Virginia Association of REALTORS last month, I shared my thoughts on using slides in public speaking. I believe we can boil it down to 5 tips. If you follow these, you will notice a much happier, engaged audience.

TIP #1: Your PowerPoint is not your presentation

Your presentation is YOU. Your slides are there to support you. You should have a presence in front of an audience. That means knowledge of the topic, good eye contact, engagement with the audience, and control of the situation. Instead of writing a PowerPoint, you should write talking points. You then design your PowerPoint to provide cues, for you and for the audience. Your PowerPoint is a tool for you to deliver a message. And that message is NOW in this room. It is NOT later as a handout.

Do not put all your information on your slide. Your slides are NOT a teleprompter, don’t read off them. You should be prepared and able to present without slides. That’s the true test of a good presentation. Is what you have to say compelling without the“eye candy” of a slideshow?

A good approach is to have keywords and talking points on note cards.

TIP #2: Less is more – one thought per slide

You are asking the audience to focus on a particular bit of information, so pick one topic or idea per slide. It does not have to contain all the information on that particular point. It just needs to set the context for what you are talking about until you arrive at your next point.

If the choice is between 6 words or 6 lines, keep it closer to 6 words. I’ve seen so many presenters stop a presentation to ask the audience to read a slide. When they do that, they are saying that what’s onscreen is more important than you, the speaker. Think about that – you are setting up a rivalry with your slides. You are asking the audience to choose. Your PowerPoint should not be your equal, it should be your sidekick.

Instead, use the slide as a reinforcing idea that can serve as both the opening AND closing thoughts on that particular point.

Tip #3: Be visually appealing, not visually abusive

Here is how PowerPoint works for your audience. A new slide comes up, your audience will look at the new slide for up to 5 seconds, then will look to you to guide them along. Your slides are meant to evoke emotion, not serve as a stand-alone document. Give your audience something to enjoy, preferably an image that sets the tone for your remarks.

Use bold images, but not as backgrounds to text. Photography and illustration are best, graphs are OK, words by themselves are the least effective. The principles of contrast apply – make sure it’s readable up on the screen. Avoid the cheesy factor; do not use animation or clip art direct from Microsoft Office.

Most of all, design your slides for the back of the room. Another reason simplicity works.

TIP #4: Good Data over Big Data

The facts, figures, and research you present need to reinforce your point, not the other way around. Make your claim, then back it up with numbers. Your claim is like the headline of a news story, while the data is the story itself, reinforcing the headline and providing more detail.

Your research should also be tailored to your audience. Your numbers need context and you are the filter. Remember, just the facts, so trim your numbers to the bare essentials. For example, if you are comparing numbers from two different years, don’t put up a slide showing the last 10 years. Every extra bit of information you include contributes to “noise” that the audience needs to sift through to understand the message.

Remember, be selective. If it’s not adding anything, it’s subtracting.

TIP #5: Use bells & whistles sparingly

If you do anything technical, test it out ahead of time or have a backup plan. If you are embedding video, audio, or animation into a PowerPoint, there’s a good chance it won’t work or slow things to a crawl. You don’t want to be doing IT consulting when you should be presenting.

Limit how much you use these special touches, maybe once every 10 minutes. While it can enrich a presentation and deliver something that the presenter can’t do on their own, it’s also something that is not “happening in the room”, which can weaken the audience’s engagement. There is an art to using these touches.

Avoid dissolves and unnecessary transitions, and don’t go crazy with a lot of special fonts. Sans Serif is best, Comic Sans is worst.

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About GR
Greg Roth is the idea enthusiast behind GRcreative. He helps you build a brand, develop content and messaging faithful to that brand, and tries to make it all fun.

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The Only 5 PowerPoint Tips You Need