Last week, I went on a bit of a rant about how bad PowerPoint presentations can be. Since I already broke the rule that “if you don’t have anything nice to say you shouldn’t say anything at all”, at the very least let’s look at ways to make your presentations better.
Likely the best way to improve your presentation is to not use PowerPoint at all. As I suggested last week, the best presentations are when you interact with the audience, which rarely happens when someone relies on PowerPoint. Using a white board to illustrate concepts or answer questions is far better than going through detailed slides to explain it.
But this may be asking for too much, so if you insist on using PowerPoint for your presentations, here are some tips to make them better:
Develop and Use a Template Consistently
The starting point for any good PowerPoint presentation is the design template and ensuring it’s followed consistently. With the proper template, you can use a consistent look and feel to more effectively communicate your message. Your presentations will look more professional and the audience will not be distracted by the design. Don’t forget to test the template you create to ensure it works in the room or format you plan to use it.
At the same time, ensure that the template is applied to each and every slide and do not make a custom layout for each slide in your presentation after the fact. This means, you cannot adjust the font of the title to make a longer one fit; you cannot make the font smaller so you can fit more words on a page; and please, do not move the placement of the text between slides as this could even make your audience sick as you go from slide to slide.
Establish a template with a standard title page, header/footer, layout, etc. and use it.
Simple is Better in Many Ways
The template does not need to be fancy by any means and simpler is likely better but it does need to be clean so the text and graphics are easily readable. But, it’s not just the template that needs to be simple so do the words you use on each slide. Or even better, use diagrams and graphics that illustrate what you are saying. A picture is worth a thousand words for a reason so it’s just makes sense to use them as often as possible to illustrate your points.
And, simple is not just about the content of each slide but the number of slides too. So many people run out of time when they are presenting and either skip some of the story or go through it so quickly that everyone gets lost. Fewer slides is always better and if you’re done early you’ll have time for more questions and audience participation.
It’s simple: use fewer words AND fewer slides.
Wow the Audience with Your Message and Content
A compelling presentation has new, interesting content and insightful answers to the audiences’ questions. An educational presentation will always wow the audience but it’s also about how the content is delivered.
The slide content should support the message you are trying to deliver not just repeat what you are saying. There’s nothing worse than the presenter just reading the text on the slide. The audience could do that on their own.
Your audience also didn’t come to see the latest or greatest transitions and effects in PowerPoint. (Of course, if it’s a presentation on PowerPoint, this may not hold true). Don’t try to wow your audience with fancy PowerPoint builds or sound effects.
Wow them by delivering compelling content with enthusiasm and clear messages.
While I started this set of posts with a rant, in all seriousness the reason I’m talking about PowerPoint so much is that for many companies this could be the main communication vehicle that prospects ever sees from your company.
While PowerPoint is not always the best way to communicate, if you use it, try to follow these tips and more importantly spend time on your presentations and ensure it represents your brand and communicates the message you want the audience to take away.