Essential PowerPoint tips to help you stand out from the crowd
1 – Less is more
PowerPoint is a visual aid. ie it is there to facilitate the understanding, help getting a message across and make it easy to remember. Some presentations have slides that are so busy and wordy that they do just the opposite!
Use “real” bullet points i.e. make them short and concise.
Banish long sentences and large blocks of text. Bullet points are great to ensure that no essential key points are omitted but the information displayed should only be a trigger for the presenter to expand on a given point.
Long sentences are off-putting and distracting. People cannot listen properly and read at the same time. The attention of the audience will instinctively be drawn to the slides, trying to read them and therefore not concentrating on what you are saying.
Limit the amount of information displayed and concentrate on the core of your message. Slides which are too busy are not conducive to learning and information retention.
2 – Easy to read
Make sure the size of text is big enough for all to see i.e. think of the people at the back of the room. I would recommend font 24 as a minimum, and more in most circumstances. PowerPoint will automatically reduce the size of the text to “make it fit”. When that happens you should have a good indication that there is already too much information on the slide.
Copies of spreadsheets and project plans should be banned. They are just too small. If they contain key information, extract it and create a slide showing only the elements you want people to focus on.
Choose your colours carefully. Some colours may look fun on your computer but are impossible to read when projected on a large screen. Avoid colours that clash.
Tip 3 – Use graphics/pictures
When trying to explain complex concepts or to emphasize a point use a picture, chart or graphical illustration instead of a long list of bullet points. Remember, “A picture is worth a thousand words”.
For example, when talking about the chaos and challenges emergency services face after an earthquake, use a picture of a demolished city and comment the picture highlighting the lack of water, electricity, seriousness of injury etc. as opposed to just listing all these on a slide.
- No electricity
- Polluted Water
- Collapsed transport system
- Hospitals overcrowded
- Restricted supplies
Tip 4 – Sign-post your presentation
Whether you are using PowerPoint or not, a presentation should always be structured. If in doubt, just stick to the traditional and effective format
- Tell them what you are going to tell them
- Tell them
- Tell them what you have just told them
The introduction should make it clear to the audience WHY they need to listen and provide the key points to be covered. The conclusion should recap briefly on the points covered before the final message.
To sign-post your presentation effectively, use agenda slides and divide into key sections. This will help the audience follow the logical flow of the presentation but can also help the presenter to keep to the structure. Some presenters, particularly when they are very knowledgeable about a subject, may go off at a tangent and so ddigress from the main objective of a presentation.
Tip 5 – Face the audience
Presenters turning their back to the audience or looking at the screen are such a common and strong turn off!
Make sure you are facing the audience and only turn to the screen very briefly if you need to point out something on the slides. Your main focus should be the audience not the slideshow. So many speakers stand either sideways during a presentation alternating their sight between the audience and the screen, or worse spend the whole presentation talking to the screen.
Face the audience and make eye contact: this will help you engage better with the audience and will help them to focus on what you are saying.