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10 PowerPoint Tips to go from "Ho-Hum" to Awesome!

By Deborah J. Sparks

Have you sat through presentations that caused you to yawn, squirm and try to stay awake? Or even worse - committed the crime yourself?

As the late Steve Jobs, a master at presentations, said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”, quoting Leonardo da Vinci.

Jobs was also quick to point out that simplicity didn’t mean simple. Creating a powerful, inspiring, engaging presentation takes work and practice.

Here are 10 tips that may help transform your PowerPoint presentations. These deal with the PowerPoint program itself - for specifics on upping your presentation skills with or without PowerPoint, check out our article 10 Tips for Giving Great Presentations.

  1. Create an outline first. Before you even begin the presentation, create a structure to make sure your content is solid. What point do you want to make? What is your audience's mind-set now? How will you move them along to where you want them to be?
  2. Use sticky notes or Word so that you can easily move your ideas around, then edit, edit, edit. If an idea doesn't contribute, remove it to keep the presentation on point and cohesive.
  3. Create an agenda slide. People like to know where they're going and how long it will take.
  4. Don't make yourself interchangeable with your PowerPoint presentation. If you set PowerPoint up to tell your story - why are you there? If you are going to pack your slides with report-style facts and figures, why not cancel the presentation and just send out a report?
  5. Use visuals instead of crowding each slide with bullet pointed text. How often have you seen a presenter use their slides as a teleprompter? It's much more effective to use visuals including graphs, charts, diagrams, images and media clips to make your point.
  6. Narration (you talking to the audience) with a high quality visual is a much more effective way to communicate. That's why you never see documentaries with a blank screen accompanying the voice over!
  7. If you must use bulleted points, use 'rules of 6' as a guideline. Maximum of 6 lines per slide, maximum 6 words per line, maximum of 6 bulleted slides in a row and content that's readable in 6 seconds.
  8. One idea, one (big) visual and one phrase per slide. Overcrowded slides are confusing and difficult to read, so use extra slides to keep things simple and focused. Retention rates will increase; your message will maintain clarity and extra slides don't cost a cent!
  9. This takes practice - but look at the difference between these slides! Steve Jobs makes an impact. Bill Gates... not so much!
  10. Avoid clipart, low quality visuals, distracting animations and transition effects. Watching text or visuals creep, zoom or pinwheel onto the slide is distracting, takes longer than it should to absorb and puts the focus more on the effects than the content and can look amateurish.
  11. Prepare handouts or supporting documentation with the details to avoid bogging down the presentation with endless statistics and graphs. Distribute these AFTER the presentation or audience members will invariably start to read your material instead of listening to your message.
  12. Use contrasting colors, a large enough font size and check your spelling and grammar. Make sure you have lots of contrast between your text and the background, for example a deep blue with white or pale yellow text. Colors can display very differently on your computer screen than when projected, so make sure to test them before your presentation. Fonts should usually be at least 32 to 44 point size, or even up to 60 if you’re presenting in a very large room. A sans serif font is better than serif and avoid using more than two font styles and colors to avoid the “ransom note” style!
  13. Use the same fonts, colors and visual styles throughout the presentation. A consistent presentation is more fluid and professional. Make sure to use slide masters to make this step a piece of cake. And why not create your own template so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel?
  14. Turn off pointer movement and end the presentation without dropping back into the program screen. When you use a mouse to advance slides, the pointer will move across the screen as it normally does when using a mouse, which is distracting. To avoid this, after starting the slide show, press Ctrl+H to hide the pointer. If you need to unhide the pointer, press Ctrl+A. At the end of the presentation if you advance past the last slide, you end up back in the program screen. Avoid this by have two or three duplicates of the last slide so that even if you advance too many times, it won’t matter because the next slide is the same.
  15. Using keyboard shortcuts allow you to seamlessly jump to slides, turn the screen black or white and much more. For a comprehensive list of PowerPoint keyboard shortcuts, click here.

Here are some great presentation resources, whether you’re using PowerPoint or not:

  • Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson
  • Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds
  • Resonate and slide:ology by Nancy Duarte
  • The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo
  • for free riveting presentations by remarkable people

Garr Reynolds has a fantastic webpage that is FULL of all kinds of presentation resources, including links to: Presentation Tips, PowerPoint Tips, Keynote Tips, Books, and Images and Photos.

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© 2012 DJH Training & Application Solutions Inc.

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