As a business leader, giving talks and presentations is par for the course. But one bugbear that even the most experienced speaker tends to struggle with is the infamous Powerpoint presentation. Used well, Powerpoint can be an effective tool for engaging your audience and illustrating your point. But all too often these slideshows become unwieldy, repetitive and text-heavy. The outcome is a presentation where your audience is focusing on what’s on the screen rather than what you’re saying – or worse, they’re nodding off.
Here’s how to craft a Powerpoint presentation that will have your audience on the edge of their seats.
Less is More
At Stellapop, our rule of thumb regarding Powerpoint is “if in doubt, cut it out.” You want your audience’s attention on you, not on what’s happening on the slide. Craft your slides so that they can be read at a glance, and make sure that they support the story you’re telling, rather than telling it in your place.
There are a few different schools of thought around how much is too much for a Powerpoint presentation. Guy Kawasaki has the 10-20-30 rule, where he recommends using no more than 10 slides, speaking for no more than 20 minutes, and using nothing smaller than a 30-point font. Others recommend the 5-5-5 rule, which mandates a max of 5 words per line, five lines per slide, and five text-heavy slides in a row.
Similarly, go easy on the infographics, diagrams, and animations. These can become distractions, luring the audience away from what you’re saying. Your aim is to have your audience hanging on your every word, not on your graphics skills.
Use Builds and Transitions Sparingly
Builds are where you have to load each line of text on a slide individually, thus “building” to a full screen of text. While they can be effective, they can also drastically slow down your presentation, so be strategic about how you use them. They can be great for making a key point, but not so much for everything else.
Transitions, on the other hand, are animations that take you from slide to slide. The best approach with these is to avoid them altogether unless you have very good reason to use them. This is particularly true if you’re going to have to skip back and forth through your presentation, which may happen if your audience has questions.
Slow it Down
In your haste to reduce the amount of content on your slides, it can be easy to create a marathon slideshow featuring hundreds of slides with very little content on them. We recommend against this, as constantly flipping from one slide to the next can be distracting for your audience. Try crafting your presentation so that you can spend at least a minute on each slide. Think carefully about the key points of your presentation, and highlight those – and only those – in your slides.
It’s Not a Script
One of the big temptations of Powerpoint is to simply use it as an outline of your speech. But don’t fall into the trap of using your slides as a digital version of your notecards. If you’re just going to read out the contents of your slides, you might as well just email the Powerpoint around and skip the presentation altogether.
Your Powerpoint should complement your presentation, not repeat it. You can highlight key stats, quotes or themes, but avoid doubling up on content. This will keep your audience focused on what you’re saying rather than simply reading it all in their own time. If you need some notes to keep yourself on track, type them in the notes section of your Powerpoint, not on the slides themselves.
Your Powerpoint is a reflection of your brand. Craft something in line with your company’s look and feel, and which ideally incorporates your brand identity. Whether you’re presenting internally or externally, you’re representing your organization, so ensure that both the design and content of your slides reflect that.
Don’t forget to check that any images, logos or screengrabs are high-res enough that they won’t distort on your screen. No matter how great your presentation looks otherwise, pixelated images won’t be doing your brand’s credibility any favors.
Learn from the Best
If you’re still not sure about what should go into your presentation, take your cues from the best. Think Steve Jobs’ iconic iPhone announcement from 2007, or Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, probably the only presentation ever to win an Academy Award. Load up YouTube and explore some of the presentations from the world’s business luminaries – and see if you can craft something of a similar caliber.
With that, it’s time to go forth and present!