21 Oct STOP! Your PowerPoint is Killing me!

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STOP! Your PowerPoint is Killing me! Seriously – your business slides are making me want to poke my eyes out with a sharp instrument! Here are some essential tips to help you create stunning slides that reinforce your key messages for your audience. If you use ever slides or Prezi you need to remind yourself of the fundamentals today.

Are you setting yourself up to use PowerPoint as a lethal weapon?

Are you guilty of the ‘kid in a toyshop’ syndrome, where your enthusiasm for your newfound slide mastery is clouding your judgement as a presenter? Have you thought enough about the need to concentrate more on your verbal and non-verbal communication than your visual aids?

Try the ‘will my slides cause death?’ test:

  • Do you lack confidence as a presenter? Would you be horrified at the thought of presenting to an audience without the use of visual aids?
  • Are you guilty of using PowerPoint slides to take the focus off yourself?
  • Do you use PowerPoint slides as convenient palm-cards? Do you even turn sideways to your audience and read from your slides on the screen.
  • Do you use PowerPoint to write your presentation?
  • Do you try to use the entire functionality of PowerPoint as a way of professionalising your presentation? (Have you even sent your EA/PA on a PowerPoint training program?)

If you find yourself answering yes to these questions then there is a good chance you will rely on PowerPoint slides to carry you as a presenter, rather than simply as a visual aid to support your presentation. You may have improved your technical skill in designing visual aids, but it may well be at the expense of developing your ability to communicate with your audience, and to properly connect with your audience.

If you don’t know how to design beautiful slides that reinforce your key messages then you need a copy of STOP! Your PowerPoint is Killing me available here.

In the meantime, here are some quick essential tips for you:

  • Avoid distracting special effects. Fade-outs, dissolves and sound effects are not the point. The point is the message you are sending, and this is generally best achieved with an emotionally evocative image, not fancy effects..
  • Avoid clip-art. Try to use only your own photographs or purchase good-quality stock photos.
  • Avoid text-heavy slides. Don’t use paragraphs, quotes or complete sentences. Steve Jobs is quoted as suggesting: “no more than 9 words on a slide and get rid of bullet points all together.” I’m a fan of the 10-second rule which suggests for your slides to be effective, the audience should be able to read your slides through once and fully understand it in 10-seconds.
  • Dramatically reduce the number of slides. Mix it up with handouts, flipcharts, whiteboards, gestures, movement in the space, facial expressions, video. It’s about visually stimulating the audience not killing them with too many slides!
  • Use sentence case on slides rather than CAPITAL LETTERS. Capitals are difficult to read which defeats the purpose of the slide.
  • Change the colour. Change the colour of the text rather than rather than using underline, bold or italics. Again, it’s all about the audience reading the slide in 10-seconds. If you apply too many fancy formats to your fonts they won’t be able to read it quickly and then it’s distracting the audience rather than to adding to your message.
  • Avoid small type. Use a minimum of 30-point font. Yes, minimum 30 point! Remove all those little page numbers, file locations and tiny logos that no one can see anyway. And when using graphs, be ruthless and take off the little numbers no one can read. It’s better to have more slides with big images/graphs and fonts that people can read than trying to cram it all into one slide so you reduce the number of slides. By all means cram it all into a 1-page handout though.
  • Dark text. Use dark text on a light background.
  • Replace words with pictures as much as possible. Use www.istockphotos.com for pictures and pay for your images.
  • Only reproduce the important parts of graphs. And if that means having two versions of the graph: once with all the details on a handout; and the other, cleaner version on the screen then do it. Do whatever it takes for your audience to fully understand your point. If they can’t read it on the slide then why are you putting it there?
  • Colour. Colours have meaning – use colour carefully.
  • Sound. Ensure any sounds/music add value to your message.
  • Always have a back-up plan. The data projector bulb will blow up – it’s Murphy’s law! Be sure to have a backup and be just as comfortable presenting without slides as you are with them.

Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), co-creator of the PRSI (a world-first psychometric indicator that tests your persuasiveness at work), best selling internationally published author (Wiley), editor of How to Present magazine, producer of Michelle Bowden TV, and a regular commentator in print, radio and online media. Sign up for Michelle’s FREE How to Present magazine TODAY http://michellebowden.com.au