When it comes to work presentations, we all know that Microsoft PowerPoint is king. The slide show presentation program single-handedly powers a never-ending stream of quarterly presentations, funding pitches and annual conferences day-in and day-out. We’ve all used it before, and we’ll all use it again.
But just because you’re intimately familiar with PowerPoint doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting the most out of it. The truth is, there are quite a few basics that small business owners tend to ignore when stringing together a few slides. Yet by reviewing your own technique, you might be surprised to find how much room their is for improvement.
To help you get started, here are 15 basic presentation tips.
Tips for Creating Effective PowerPoint Presentations
1. Create a Script
It doesn’t matter who your audience is or what it is you’re presenting – they’ll be able to tell if your slides are lacking any rhyme or reason. In order to avoid confusion and emanate professionalism, write out a fairly detailed script before you even get started creating slides. Outline precisely what it is you want to say, right down to the last bullet point. Those detailed talking points will ultimately evolve into the iron skeleton of your presentation.
2. Less is More
When it comes to a PowerPoint presentation, the worst thing you could possibly do is to overload your slides with too much text. Paragraphs of text will take the focus off of you, as your audience will simply drown out your speech and start reading the information for themselves. When in doubt, text should be short and sweet. Reduce all of your talking points to concise phrases, and force your audience to listen to you in order to pick up all of the minute details.
3. Beware of Fancy Fonts
You’re a grown-up. That means it is only acceptable to use basic, sans serif font in your PowerPoint presentations – nothing else. If it is brand appropriate, you can get away with using an easy-to-read decorative font within a header only. Again, decorative fonts inevitably take attention away from you, the presenter. That’s the last thing you want your slides to be doing.
4. Get Rid of the Clutter
Believe it or not, you should keep your slides super basic. All you need is a headline, a couple of bullet points and maybe one image. Any more will simply cause your audience, and perhaps even yourself, to lose focus in the middle of your presentation.
5. Label Your Charts
Charts make a great addition to any PowerPoint presentation. But you should never simply assume that your audience will know exactly what the chart on any given slide is telling them. Far too many presenters make the grave mistake of failing to label key elements of their graphs. In turn, you’ll lose valuable time explaining basic aspects – thus throwing your entire presentation off-center.
6. Be Consistent with Backgrounds
Pick an understated, professional template that isn’t too loud or eye-catching. After all, it’s not the background color of each slide that should be your biggest selling point. Be consistent, and have faith that inserted visuals and your presentation itself will be enough to capture your audience’s attention.
7. Don’t Use Too Many Images
It’s crucial to include visuals within your PowerPoint. They keep your audience engaged and can help to prove the validity of what you’re saying in a million ways that a bullet point cannot. That being said, you should never use more than one image per slide.
8. Don’t Be Afraid of Contrast
If you opt to use a theme for your presentation, you should automatically be provided with a set level of contrast between your background colors and text colors. That being said, if you aren’t using a template, you’ve got to be smart about your use of contrasting colors. Also bear in mind that what looks okay on your computer monitor may not look great on a projector screen.
9. Dress the Part
It’s important to remember that your PowerPoint slides are only one cog within a wider presentation machine. As such, you can’t neglect exhibiting your own professionalism as the presenter. Have a think about what you’re wearing, your mannerisms and how you’re moving around the room whilst talking. Even the most exciting PowerPoint slides in the world can’t carry a boring speaker.
10. Turn Your Screensaver Off
A common rookie mistake presenters often make is to switch off their screensavers during a presentation. If you plan to talk over any one slide for more than a few minutes, your computer very well may decide to give it a rest and launch your screensaver. Seeing all of your old vacation snaps in the middle of a serious budget presentation very well may knock you down a peg or two in the eyes of your audience.
11. Create a Hook
Like any engaging story, you’ve got to kick things off with a great hook. Give your audience a surprising or intriguing statistic about your company or industry, or deliver a personal anecdote that you believe adds a bit of flavor and insight. By drawing your audience in with something a bit personal, you’re able to create a subconscious link that will ensure they listen a little bit more intently to the slides that follow.
12. Ask Lots of Questions
Remember that this presentation isn’t all about you. In between slides, you should be asking your audience questions about what you’ve just said. Ask for their thoughts and opinions. Engage them. Even better, ask for thoughts on issues that the successive slides will cover in order to force listeners to challenge their own perceptions of whatever it is you’re covering.
13. Use an Intermission
The average adult attention span during a presentation is only about twenty minutes. If your presentation is going to be substantially longer than that, split things up and give your audience short breaks in between sections of your presentations.
Even better, engage listeners by forcing them to get up and interact with one another. For example, you could encourage your audience to partner up, develop a short list of misconceptions about your subject matter, and then share them aloud before carrying on with your presentation.
14. Animate Yourself
It doesn’t matter how exciting your PowerPoint presentation might be – if you’re droning on in a monotonous voice, you’re going to lose your audience pretty quickly. Don’t simply read your way through a presentation. Get animated, exhibit a personable tone and break things up with exclamations side notes and questions.
15. Duplicate Your Final Slide
Another common PowerPoint mistake users make is to double-click through their final slide before the presentation has actually finished. This leads to an awkward scramble to return to the previous slide, and throws off your entire conclusion. To avoid that embarrassment, cut and paste your final slide two or three times at the end of your presentation.
Finally, you’ve got to have fun with it. According to researchers, most of us are more afraid of public speaking than we are of death. But with the help of a fantastic PowerPoint presentation, a quality script and a bit of stage presence, delivering an expert presentation doesn’t have to be difficult or scary. Just remember to play to the room and don’t be afraid to do whatever it takes in order to get your message across.