An outline, like what you saw on an earlier slide, is a bit like an index for your presentation. An outline will give your audience a good idea of the structure of your presentation. It will also give them an idea of when you are nearing the end of your presentation. It’s a good idea to use the outline headings in your presentation as this will deliver milestones throughout the presentation.
Don’t whack up too many words on a slide. The less is more policy works well with powerpoint. What you are trying to do is put significant words on the slide so that your message will stay with the audience and reinforce your spoken words. The 6/6 rule is a good one to follow. No more than 6 dot points and no more than six words per dot point. You won’t always be able to stick to this but it’s a good base point.
Obviously this is not what you do. Firstly, people will be straining their eyes to read this amount of information. Secondly, your audience will be torn between reading the text and listening to what you have to say. This is where PowerPoint becomes PowerPointless, either you or the PowerPoint could be dispensed with.
Sometimes it can be advantageous to show one point at a time. This way you can reinforce each of the points you are saying and the audience does not read ahead of what you are saying.
Novice users to PowerPoint tend to overuse clip art and animation effects. My suggestion would be to minimise their use. People have come to hear you speak and present your ideas, not watch a multimedia display. Also, people are fairly familiar with the clip art available on Microsoft Office so presenting this artwork can give an impression that this is just a generic presentation which will make your audience switch off. If you use animation, keep it consistent, or your audience will be wondering what animation is going to happen next, rather than concentrating on what you are saying.
When you are moving from one slide to the next, I think simplicity is the best option, however if you want to use a particular effect, use it throughout your presentation and never, ever use the ‘Random transition option’.
Isn’t it great? Ok, now I probably have you pretty worried. I lied. This is far from a great slide. There are sooo many things wrong with this slide. Some of these are: Content that is of no use to anyone A background that makes the text barely legible Mixtures of fonts Over-use of clip art Confusing transitions Animated text Sound effects People usually do not produce horrendous slides like this, however there are some aspects of this slide that people do include, and that’s what we will seek to avoid. At least I hope none of you are producing anything like this.
I have put up some suggestions as to the size of font you should be using. In terms of what type of font, some people find Times New Roman preferable to Arial. However there has been some research into readability of fonts, especially for people with reading or vision difficulties, that san serif fonts such as Arial or Tehoma are preferable. This is also the recommendation from organisations such as Scope and Vision Australia.
If you’re going to use a small sized font, you may as well not include that slide in your presentation. Most of your audience won’t be able to read it. Information in small font could be included in the handouts that you give to your audience. Avoid using a mixture of fonts and avoid complex fonts like comic sans or impact.
You’ve got the whole page so why cram things in a corner…
Space them out. The use of white space increases readability and your audience’s ability to scan slides quickly and return their focus back to you, the speaker.
The main thing when using colour is to use high contrast. So, either a dark background with light text or light background with dark text. However, it can be difficult to read white text on black background, especially when the font size is not huge. It would probably be better to use a dark blue background if you are going to go with a dark background and light text.
Telling you the obvious here, but you would not use yellow on white or black on blue. You don’t want anyone in your audience straining to read what is on your slides. You don’t need to be too obvious with highlighting specific words or giving each line a different colour.
Be careful with your choice of background. Some standard backgrounds that you will find in PowerPoint can vary from light to dark therefore making the choice of font colour very difficult. In one part of the slide the contrast will be fine, while in other areas the words may be more difficult to see.
This Austin Powers effect is obviously a little over the top but it shows how the green writing is visible against some colours but not others which is the danger with a variable background.
Try to present visual graphs rather than numeric charts. They are much more scannable and accessible.
Yes, this table does show how many coloured balls were sold in the first four months. But it is not particularly engaging, nor is it intuitive in showing the trends…
Use PowerPoint for what it was originally created to do. Show graphs and charts more dynamically and allow your audience to easily understand what is occurring. They are much more scannable. We can easily see that March was a great month for blue balls. But even with graphs there are some rules…
Minor gridlines are unnecessary Font is too small Colours are illogical Title is missing Shading is distracting
Make sure you, and maybe one of your colleagues, check through the presentation to ensure there are no typos or grammatical errors. When checking it’s good to have a breather, or go for a coffee and then come back to it. You may be amazed what you pick up on a second reading. As I mentioned at the beginning, you don’t want your mistakes magnified and projected onto a wall for all to see.
Get there early – this will allow you to iron out any last minute issues. It may be handy to have your presentation on disk just in case, and if all the technology lets you down, be prepared to give your talk without PowerPoint. Handouts – it is your decision as to whether you give out handouts prior to the presentation or after. Reasons for giving them out prior to might be that they need to take additional notes as you present or there is other information in the handouts that they need to refer to when you are speaking. However, be aware that if you give out handouts prior to the presentation, your audience may be concentrating on the handouts rather than you. Does everything work? – Check the data projector and/or laptop. Make sure there are no passwords you need to know. See whether you will need a microphone in order to be heard. Make sure you are able to see your notes. If you require an Internet connection or are using other multimedia ensure it is all in working order. Can your audience read the slides? – Check that the light levels in the room allow for your slides to be easily seen once they are projected. Try not to make the room too dark or you may soon hear the sound of snoring, especially if a large lunch has just been consumed. Keep an eye on the time – Have a watch or look at the computer clock to make sure you are running to schedule. You will have practiced your speech several times so you should know roughly where you should be according to the clock. Try not to run over, especially if you are a part of a series of presentations. Firstly, it won’t allow enough time for questions, thereby upsetting your audience, and secondly you will annoy your next presenter, who may have to cut their presentation short. Generally those more practised in presenting will require fewer slides than newcomers to presenting. Some say that you require 1 slide for every minute of your presentation, but best to practice to determine your slide need. Don’t read directly from the slides – Avoid looking at the projection on the wall. Your audience are not that interested in looking at the back of your head. An occasional glance is ok. Also, although it can be very hard, try to avoid reading directly from your notes as you will disengage your audience. Try to make as much eye contact as possible and possibly even move away from the podium, as long as that does not upset the flow of the presentation. (You don’t want to be running back to the podium to change every slide).
Your audience is likely to remember your last words, so a good conclusion slide should summarise the main points of your presentation and give your audience the feeling of a complete presentation.
I have been to presentations where the presenter has finished by saying. “And that’s it” followed by some stuttered applause and then the master of ceremonies getting up and saying “Ok…any questions?” To make a better transition it is best for the presenter to initiate the question time themselves which signifies the end of the presentation and makes for a smooth transition from the speaker to the master of ceremonies and hopefully for your applause.