5 THINGS TO DO when making a PowerPoint presentation

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I’ve seen my fair share of horrible PowerPoint presentations, and I’ve noticed that they tend to follow common trends. So, I’ve decided to compile what I see from these very bad (and often nightmarish) presentations with my very own knowledge of how I design presentations to give you a guide on the 5 Things To Do when you make are making presentation in PowerPoint.

Also, while it is not included, don’t use WordArt. I’ll tear your presentation to shreds if you do use WordArt.

Above image: Ryan Vaarsi/Flickr (Creative Commons)

1. Make it readable

The biggest thing in PowerPoint faux pas is that you have made it hard to read. Either by making the size of the text too small that no one can see, or making the text and background colours clash that make it impossible to read.

If you are typography nerd, then you would know something about the “Classic Scale”. This makes the readability of your PowerPoint smoother and not awkward. Headings should be the biggest of whatever point from the scale you start at, then the next one down for your dot points.You should stop at 24, because that will most likely be the smallest size when looking far away. Remember, if you can see it close up, and its below 24, then it will most likely not be seen by people far away.

Also, keep your titles and text consistent on each slide. Don’t make one slide’s heading appear big in one slide and smaller in others. They should be all the same. Though, you can slightly deviate from it. Also, key thing – maintain one or two fonts on your presentation. Don’t switch from the Calibri to Arial to Georgia to Wingdings in the same presentation.

For backgrounds, remember yin and yang. If you use a light background, use dark or black colour for text. If you have a dark background, use white or light colour for text. The text needs to stand out from the background.

Also, when in doubt. Keep it simple!

2. Don’t put your ENTIRE speech

Another common faux pas I have seen from people’s PowerPoint presentations is the simple copy and paste job from their speech. Your speech should be on palm cards or in Presenter View (see below), not up on your presentation. The key for a successful presentation is that you are interacting with the audience, not interacting with the screen.

Your PowerPoint is to summarise what you are going to say. However, don’t make the presentation too wordy – because they’ll focus on the screen and not on you; and don’t simply read dot points. The main idea is that these points are the main points that you are talking about. The finer details are in your speech – so they’ll stay focus on you to hear those.

Look at what you see above. It’s simple, and summarise the main points – especially in comparing the two formats of Web Video. It is also not what you see below (and yes, I have seen people do this before).

3. If it’s too long for words, summarise with images

The old saying goes “A picture tells a thousand words” – and in PowerPoint presentations, it holds true. If you can’t summarise something in text, use a picture. They quickly sum up your point to your audience without a wordy explanation. Graphics also are helpful when you are trying to convey something complex.

They can also be used to inject a bit of humour into your speech to keep it a bit interesting (and awake). Take, for instance, these two Ignite speeches. Both use images to highlight their points and keep their audience interested, despite being boring and/or geeky topics to talk about in public.

However, don’t expect to use funny images on the internet if you have to present it to your boss. I don’t think he’ll like seeing Wikipedia’s unofficial mascot, or the Megaflicks logo.

4. Don’t make it too distracting

While it’s great to use images and custom animations – there are several ways they could be distracting. One is simply splurge a bunch of images at the same time, and placing them on top of each other with no clear focus on where your eye should look at. DON’T DO THAT!

Also, don’t make everything a custom animation, where text or images move up, down or in a random part of the screen. From personal experience, I cringe when I see people do that. It’s essentially prolonging the torture of me sitting there waiting for you to move on.

Below is simply the very definition of distracting.

A simple fade on an object – which should be set to “on click”, which we will get to in a moment – will suffice. It means that they will appear at the same time and appear relevant to whatever you are talking about.

5. Use Presenter Tools

One of the best presentations I’ve seen from people are when they have this handy tool (and, of course, combining the tips). This is like a fancier version of simply pressing the left and right keys on the keyboard; but there is one good reason why you should get this. It makes you sound a bit more professional and puts you in control on how the slides move.

Having another person to move the slides, especially one who doesn’t know what to do, is annoying as the person can move to a slide prematurely. Also, again, you have more control on how each slide shows up, making it flow with your speech. And if you are the one in control of the slides, you have more freedom to move around and not simply moving to and from the computer to transition to the new slide or new animation.

Speaking of which, another tool you should use is PowerPoint’s Presenter View – you can find it under the “Slide Show” Tab under the “Monitors” section. This will let you see your current slide, notes and what’s coming up easily. You just need to make sure that you have it set up where the projector shows the PowerPoint slides and your laptop screen shows Presenter View. It’s a great way to keep track of your presentation.

Extra 1: Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse

In order to make a good presentation, your speech should be timed with your presentation. So, you should do a dry run to see what works and what does not – and this will let you know what to add, remove or alter before your live performance. As well, timing is important. Keep it short – maybe around 5 minutes if you are doing a short presentation.

We all get nervous, but just keep practicing over and over again in front of your friends – if they allow you to. You don’t have to be the best public speaker in the world to present well, you just need some confidence in what you are saying. And as many say, practice makes perfect.

Extra 2: Don’t copy Wikipedia

Wikipedia Logo

Also, don’t copy from Wikipedia. I know this is one of the most obvious things, but DON’T COPY FROM WIKIPEDIA. Do some research once in your own life (via Google or, if you’re weird, Bing), rather than relying on a bunch of editors who managed to make this as their own unofficial mascot (but, I bet 4chan and/or Reddit are proud of them).

Though, if you must – just remove the links. It does make it look obvious. Also, don’t copy big chunks and paste that into your presentation – that is why we have introduced Presenter Mode. You can simply read off that and make yourself sound smart.

Do you have your own tips on how to make a good presentation? We want to hear them. Send them in the comments below.

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