Microsoft Powerpoint is a curious thing, part visual package, part Microsoft Word, intended to fill the gap for the non IT literate person to create a visual and engaging display, used in most business cases to bolster their pitch or presentation.
Something so dependant on visual content, you would think might require the expertise of a designer for the more important presentations, however this is rarely the case (far be it from me to suggest that designers should be employed more often….).
Typically presentations need to be made quickly, and demonstrate the knowledge of the sales person giving the presentation, so time is a huge limitation – as is budget clearly, where a decent designer doesn’t always come cheap.
So, given this conflict, I’m going to try and explore some of the themes that lead to an effective Powerpoint display, some pointers for those of you who aren’t designers, but are in the business of creating presentations.
So beginning with a couple of obvious points.
1. Support what you’ll say, don’t write what you’ll say
A small point, but a crucial one. Powerpoint presentations should be used to support and enhance your spoken presentation, and not literally be your spoken presentation.
There can be a temptation to pre-write, and read out – saving the need to ad-libbing or proper presenting, but this will fail immediately. You will instantly lose the interest of your audience while they skim read every new slide, and their imagination will be elsewhere, rather than with your subject matter – which is where it should be.
2. Concise with content, no cramming
- Keep your text font a healthy size, allow ample spacing, and spread your content out.
- Nobody wants to be hammered with several slides FULL of small text, it’s intimidating, off putting, and again you’ll quickly lose your viewers.
- Split them up into bite size chunks, use clear headers, make use of bullet point lists but only when relevant, you’re onto a winner.
Time to design!
3. Consistent visual theme
- Keep your titles in a consistent location on the slide, using the same font
- Keep your text neatly arranged in the same alignment throughout the slides, using the same font size and spacing
- Use bullet point lists? keep the same bullet – and perhaps match the colour to your brand colour
- Using imagery? Again make it consistent, no clip art followed by landscape photos please
4. Avoid horrible generic powerpoint styles
Stay well away from the pre-created PPT templates, your customers will have seen them, and you’ll be seen as the kind of person who likes the quick way out.
Think of those styles you associate with 90s power points, long wavy fades, or big pointless geometric shapes… know what I mean?
5. Use media!
It’s modern times, machines can handle video, audio and all sorts without any problems. Use that to your advantage.
If someone’s presenting to you, don’t you perk up at the sign of a video or audio clip?
At the very least make sure any imagery you use is sharp and modern. Make sure your presentation uses rich and contemporary media as much as is possible.
So there are some pointers for your next powerpoint presentation. Remember you want to show that you give attention to detail, and to stand out amongst other presenters – that extra 5 minutes on your presentation will ensure your audience takes note and leaves feeling ultra impressed.
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