Ask The Expert: Giving a PowerPoint (PPT) presentation makes me nervous. What can I do to prevent boring slides?

We run PPT presentations for all kinds of clients for all types of audiences.  The best design practices for PPT slides are the standard K.I.S.S. method (Keep it simple, stupid!).  PPT offers many graphic elements, but consider how an audience views the slides and you’ll quickly see that simpler is better.  Here are some tips to get you started.

1.    Remember the Scouting rule “Be prepared”. Nothing kills a presentation more than a false start. Bring an extra lamp (light bulb) for the projector – and test the projector with the laptop you’ll be using beforehand.  In case the projector doesn’t work, be prepared to give your speech without the slides. Then pass a piece of paper around and ask people to jot down their name and email if they would like you to send the slides to them after the event.

2.    Check the format of the display: PowerPoint gives you three size choices: 4:3, 16:9 and 16:10. These are called aspect ratios.  For instance, some monitors are wide screen and require the 16:9 aspect ratio.  Otherwise, the slide won’t show up as full screen.

3.    Make sure the screen resolution selected on the laptop is compatible with the monitor.  If not, the image will be completely distorted.

4.    Choose a design template that is simple and themed for your audience.  Business presentations should be neutral in color, presentations for children should be colorful.

5.    Dark text on a light background is best, but tone down white backgrounds by using beige or another light color that will be easy on the eyes. Dark backgrounds are very effective, but be sure to make text a light color for easy reading. In short, avoid straight black and white.

6.    Fonts: Use either Arial or New Times Roman fonts in a minimum of 30 points in size in no more than 2 different different font styles.

7.    Remember the 4-4-4 rule. You want to get across only four points to your audience.  There should be four bullets on each slide, and four words for each bullet. The information on any slide should not take longer than 10 seconds for an audience to absorb. This keeps the audience focusing on you and not the slides. Also, don’t read the text to the audience. They read it as soon as you posted it on the screen.

8.    Don’t overload your presentation with charts, graphs and graphics. If someone in the back of the room can’t read the details, skip it.

9.    The same goes for animations, transitions and sounds.  They look cool when you’re creating a presentation, but are very distracting from both a visual and comprehension perspective.  Again, less is more.

10.    How many slides do you have?  For a typical twenty minute presentation, 10-12 slides should be plenty. Flipping through slide after slide sends the audience reeling from too much information.

11.    Easy on the laser pointer. By the time the audience finds the dizzying dot, the point of the topic is lost.

12.    Pause during your presentation.  Avoid talking non-stop, and pause after important statements, to let the idea sink into the audience’s minds.  It’s a very powerful element of public speaking.

Follow these simple steps and you’ll have a presentation that smoothly gets your message across. Now, wasn’t that easy?

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