Do you use PowerPoint in your presentations? If you keep your audience in mind as you prepare, you’ll be amazed at how much better your talks will go. In fact, the process below will help you, too.
Here’s why. By and large, most professionals have seen more poor slide decks than they can count. Slides use fonts that are too small, ideas that are too complex, text that is too wordy and images that are hard to understand, especially from a distance. To make matters worse, many speakers read the slides and, if they didn’t develop the deck, often get lost in the content themselves. No wonder Steve Jobs once said, “People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.”
PowerPoint that engages your audiences, provides easy-to-understand info and reinforces your key points will boost your impact. If these goals resonate with you, use the following four tactics:
1. Shorten every line. When it comes to clear, compelling PowerPoint design, the fewer the words, the better. Eliminate nonessential information from every line on every slide. What helps me trim my verbiage is using short phrases and no “word wrap.” This means only one line of text for each point. Also, if you don’t have time to cover some of your important but nonessential information, leave the extra text out of the deck, but keep your insights in mind for Q&A. Avoid using your slides as a place to put footnotes, and never use PowerPoint for your presentation notes. Instead, use the text on your slides to prompt your memory and reinforce your main points. If they start reading your PowerPoint, they stop listening to you.
2. Select impact images. A great image offers insight and context. But, be careful. Too many images on one slide will confuse viewers. If you find yourself struggling to think of the right image or graphic to use, stick to short, crisp text (see tactic 1). Using “cute” images isn’t a good way to connect with an audience, and reaching for symbolism will only make the minds of your audience wander as they try to figure out the connection. Just like your text, use images to reinforce your main points.
3. Skip unnecessary animation. For the majority of your presentation, keep slide transitions and animations simple and consistent. Keep your audience focused on what you are saying. The more animation, the more likely you are to distract your audience. If you have a keyword or insight you want to emphasize, you can use a little animation to bring your audience’s attention to it—just be sure to time the animation so your slide doesn’t give away your big insight before you get to it.
4. Synchronize data with simple graphics. Statistics and data points are much easier to understand and apply when you use clear, easy-to-understand graphs and charts. As you build these elements into your presentation, try to stick to one idea per slide. While showing your data is important, packing too much information into a single slide can overwhelm and distract your audience. If it helps you to be clearer, use several simple but related slides. Also, when you present data, provide an overview, a few key details, and a bottom-line takeaway message.
PowerPoint can be an excellent visual aid to supplement and complement your message. One final tip: Always remember that you are the presenter. Your slides are simply there to back you up. Make the slides work for you.
Article by Dr. Kregg Hood, President of EDC Communications, keynote speaker and coach for corporate executives and other professionals. Originally published by Forbes Coaches Council, an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches.