PowerPoint — Make it Your Best Friend Instead of Worst Enemy
People complain about PowerPoint, but like any tool, its usefulness depends 100% on how you use it. You should know how to take advantage of its features while having a sound approach to visual presentations. Here are some tips to keep in mind when putting the slides together and presenting them.
Keep Slides Simple!
The main advice for anyone making PowerPoint slides is to keep them simple. Don’t include detailed charts that are hard to read or aren’t instantly understandable. It works better to have a clear image or two that help tell your story. Even basic images, like a brick wall to indicate a roadblock that has to be overcome, will help your point stick with the audience much more than a detailed flow chart showing how you identified what caused the roadblock.
Another basic concept for slidesmanship is not to overdo the bells and whistles available in PowerPoint. Simple fonts without special effects work best and prevent distractions. One of the biggest pitfalls is overdoing animations on slides. Make sure that any motion or changes on the slides actually correspond to something in the real world. An example would be a home makeover, where the change is part of the story. Having words flying around on the page for no reason doesn’t help anything.
Don’t Let Slides Dominate the Presentation
After all that slide prep, remember that the presentation should make the audience focus on you and what you are saying, not the content of the slides. Even though the slides took hours to prepare, they are just there to support YOUR story, not replace you. You should be talking to the audience, NOT to the slides. They will remember you and what you are saying, not what appeared briefly on a screen. It’s also an easy trap to comment on the slides as you make your presentation (“sorry for the eye-chart” or “this is my favorite graphic”). That’s unprofessional and just further distracts from you and your story.
PowerPoint Replacing a Report
Unfortunately, PowerPoint often has to serve as a reference document, not just a presentation tool. No one wants to create a presentation AND write a report – and no client wants to pay for both – so PowerPoint gets pressed into service as both. So, you need to be clever about keeping the slides presentation-worthy while capturing more information than you actually present. This can be done with more details in the notes section – useful for listing sources, links to other information, and assumptions – or you can also have backup slides with more details and background. If you use a handout, it should just be the main slides that you present, so that the recipient isn’t put off by a thick stack of paper. The electronic version that you send as a follow-up can include all of the backup material.
Don’t forget that your brilliant slides might be printed in black and white or as two (or more!) per page, or it might get PDF’ed by the recipient, killing all of your gripping animations. Make sure that your story still makes sense when those visual compromises are made. This will help your slides last and serve as a useful tool for the user beyond the meeting where you presented them. That can only help your own brand if you are seen as the creator of useful content!
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