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Start by creating an outlineThe most important part of any presentation is the content, not the graphical appeal. Thatis why you should develop your presentation with the content first, before deciding on thelook (colours, graphics, etc.) Create a good structure for your presentation by reflecting onthe goal of the presentation, what your audience is thinking right now, and what points youneed to make in order to move the audience from where they are to where you want themto be. Write an outline on paper or use sticky notes so you can move ideas around. Bycreating an outline first, you ensure that the content of your presentation is solid before youconcern yourself with the visual elements.
Use Contrasting ColoursIf you want your audience to be able to see what you have on the slide, there needs to be alot of contrast between the text colour and the background colour. I suggest a darkbackground with light text – I usually use a medium to dark blue background and white oryellow letters. Some prefer a light background and dark letters, which will also work well -which you choose will depend on personal preference. Don’t think that just because thetext looks fine on your computer screen that it will look fine when projected. Mostprojectors make colours duller than they appear on a screen, and you should check howyour colours look when projected to make sure there is still enough contrast. To checkthat your colors have enough contrast, use the Color Contrast Calculator.
Use a big enough fontWhen deciding what font size to use in your presentation, make sure it isbig enough so that the audience can read it. I usually find that any fontsize less than 24 point is too small to be reasonably read in mostpresentation situations. I would prefer to see most text at a 28 or 32point size, with titles being 36 to 44 point size. The only reason I woulduse a font less than 24 point is when adding explanatory text to a graphor diagram, where you could use a 20 point font size.
If you are given a small screen in a big room, your font will looksmaller because the image will not be as big as it should be. Inthis case, see if you can get a larger screen, use a wall instead of ascreen to project on, move the chairs closer to the screen orremove the last few rows of chairs. Ive put together a chart thatlists how far away the last row of your audience should be basedon the size of screen, font size and visual acuity testing - use theFont Size chart here.
Stop the moving textWhen text comes on the screen, we want the audience to read the text, then focus back onthe presenter to hear the message. If the text moves onto the screen in any way – such asflying in, spiral or zooming – it makes it harder for the audience members to read sincethey have to wait until the text has stopped before they can read it. This makes thepresenter wait longer between each point and makes the audience members focus more onthe movement than on what is being said. I suggest the use of the "Appear" effect, which justmakes the text appear and is the easiest for the audience to read.
Turn the pointer offDuring a presentation, it is very annoying to have the pointer (the little arrow) come on thescreen while the presenter is speaking. It causes movement on the screen and draws theaudience attention from the presenter to the screen. The pointer comes on when themouse is moved during the presentation. To prevent this from happening, after the SlideShow view has started, press the Ctrl-H key combination. This prevents mouse movementfrom showing the pointer. If you need to bring the pointer on screen after this, press the Akey. If the pointer does appear during your presentation, resist the urge to press the Escapekey – if you do, it will stop the presentation and drop you back into the program. Press theA key or Ctrl-H to make the pointer disappear.
Use visuals instead of text slidesEvery two years I ask audiences what annoys them about bad PowerPointpresentations. The latest survey confirms that audiences are more fed up than ever withthe overload of text on slides (see the latest survey results here). Instead of using slides thatonly contain text, use visuals such as graphs, diagrams, photos and media clips to engagethe audience. Ive developed a five-step method for creating persuasive visuals in my bookThe Visual Slide Revolution. Read the free chapter to see a summary of the process youcan use to create your own persuasive visuals. Looking for professional photos that dontcost a lot? Check out istockphoto.com, where I go for great looking photos at reasonableprices.
Have Slides at the End of Your PresentationThe last slide you speak to should not be the last slide in your presentation file. You shouldhave three identical copies of your last speaking slide so that if you accidentally advanceone too many times at the end of your presentation, your audience never knows becauseyou don’t drop into the program, the slide looks like it has not changed. After these slides,you should include some slides that answer questions that you expect to be asked. Theseslides will be useful during Q&A sessions after the presentation. The final slide should be ablank slide so that if you go through all the other slides, you have a final backup fromdropping into the program.
Be able to Jump to Any SlidePowerPoint has a feature that allows you to be able to move quickly and seamlessly to anyslide in your presentation. To do so, you need to know the slide numbers. The easiest wayto print a list of the slide numbers and associated slide titles is to go to the Outline Viewand collapse the details for each slide (there is a button on the left side of the screen in thisview that will do this). Then print the view. To jump to any slide, just enter the slidenumber on the keyboard and press the Enter key. This will move you directly to that slide.This technique is very useful for moving to a prepared Q&A slide or for skipping parts ofyour presentation if time becomes an issue.
Blank the screenSometimes we want the image on the screen to disappear so that theaudience is focused solely on the presenter. There are two ways to do this.The first is if you want to blank the screen with a black image, similar toshutting the projector off (we used to do this all the time with overheadprojectors by just shutting the projector off). Just press the B key on thekeyboard and the image is replaced with a black image. Press the B keyagain and the image is restored. If you want to use a white image instead ofa black image, press the W key each time.
Draw on the screen during a presentationSometimes it can be valuable to be able to draw on the screen during yourpresentation to illustrate a particular point or item. This can be done inthe following way. Press the Ctrl-P key combination to display a pen onthe screen. Then, using the left mouse button, draw on the slide as youwish. To erase what you have drawn, press the E key. To hide the pen,press the A key or the Ctrl-H key combination.
When you employ these secrets to use PowerPointeffectively, you will greatly enhance your audience’sunderstanding of your message and help to make yourpresentation the best it can be. If you want more tips onimproving your PowerPoint presentation, check out mybook "102 Tips to Communicate More Effectively UsingPowerPoint"
One of the most common requests from presenters looking todeliver more effective presentations is how to stop creating textheavy slides and use more visual slides. My book "The VisualSlide Revolution" shows you a five-step method for creatingpersuasive visuals. Learn more and get your copy of The VisualSlide Revolution.
Showing things to an audience during a speech is as old as publicspeaking. In nearly all cases, showing an audience a physicalthing, an actual object, is the best way to engage an audience’sattention. But when this isn’t possible, presentation software likePowerPoint (or Apple’s Keynote software) allows the modernpublic speaker to show things to an audience on a large screen.
What has been turned upside-down over the past decade’s spread of PowerPoint, for mostPowerPoint users, is that the ―speech‖ is now mostly what’s on the screen, rather than whatis spoken. In other words, the proper relation of the illustration tool to the speech has beenreversed. In the opinion of many people, this has tragically damaged the art of publicspeaking. No one can imagine Abraham Lincoln nor Martin Luther King, Jr., needingPowerPoint. But today many people who give oral presentations cannot imagine doing sowithout PowerPoint.
PowerPoint, when displayed via a projector, is a useful tool for showingaudiences things that enhance what the speaker is saying. It is a usefultool for illustrating the content of a speech, such as by showing photos,graphs, charts, maps, etc., or by highlighting certain text from a speech,such as quotations or major ideas. It should not be used as a slide-showoutline of what the speaker is telling the audience.
Slides used in a presentation should be spare, in terms of how much information is on eachslide, as well as how many slides are used. A rule of thumb is to put no more than eightlines of text on a slide, and with no more than eight to ten words per line. In most cases,less is more, so four lines of text is probably better. Don’t display charts or graphs with a lotof information—if it’s useful for the audience to see such things, pass them out as handouts.
Unless you’re an experienced designer, don’t use thetransition and animation ―tricks‖ that are built intoPowerPoint, such as bouncing or flying text. By now,most people roll their eyes when they see these things,and these tricks add nothing of value to a presentation.
Above all, use high-contrast color schemes so that whatever is on yourslides is readable. Unless you are a talented graphic designer, use thetemplates that come with PowerPoint or Keynote, and keep it simple—high concept design in a slide presentation doesn’t help in mostcircumstances, unless you’re in the fashion or design fields. If you usegraphics or photos, try to use the highest quality you can find or afford—clip art and low-resolution graphics blown up on a screen usually detractfrom a presentation.