KISS for PowerPoint (Keep it Simple, Sweetheart)

I recently attended a problematic presentation at one of my favorite professional groups. I protect the innocent by omitting all names. I thought the situation provided an excellent example for learning.

I was quite interested in the topic. It was clear that the presenter had great expertise, but some ineffective choices with PowerPoint diminished the focus and effectiveness of the presentation. The first stumbling block was that the laptop computer was failing and there was some problem with projecting the PowerPoint presentation. The presenter opened with apologies and distracting behavior as she fussed with the technology.

1. Have a back-up plan when using any technology. Request or bring a flipchart or if at all possible / always have back-up overhead transparencies of your PowerPoint presentation so you can switch media in a jam.

I credit the presenter because she was an extremely credible speaker and did her absolute best to jump-start her talk after she got the machine working. She also interacted with the screen effectively, which is what many people forget when working with PowerPoint. She used “Touch, Turn and Talk.”

2. Use standard / effective overhead presentation skills when working with PowerPoint. Don’t give focus and control over to the machinery. Avoid using the mouse from a distance. Face the audience. Always consider how good physical skills add focus and control.

Soon however, another PowerPoint trap was demonstrated. A few screens into the presentation, the presenter apologized for a screen that had a very creative visual (easy and tempting to create with PowerPoint templates) which was impossible to read. From a distance the graphic actually seemed to shift and pulse. As the presentation continued readability remained an issue.

3. I love to see people succeed when presenting – so here’s my list of pointers for using PowerPoint for a projected presentation.

  • Use bold, large print and an easy- to-read font
  • Use bullets – words or very short, clear sentence fragments. Avoid whole sentences or paragraphs whenever possible
  • Use a maximum of six bullets per slide / spaces between.
  • Make sure you are creating focus for message and your points. Don’t just “fill-in the blanks” – use and edit templates to your specific presentation needs
  • Don’t get carried away with “creativity.” Keep print and transparency colors consistent. Check for readability.
  • Avoid dividing focus and attention with “split screen” slides.
  • Don’t choose a background or template that overwhelms your message.
  • Keep charts, graphs, and illustrations simple – limit detail – use “close-ups.”
  • Use video / audio devices appropriately – do they distract or enhance? Do you know how to use them?
  • Use “b” button to blank the screen when you want to explore in conversation

PowerPoint is a great program that has made designing presentations easy and given us some refined options. Take care to use it wisely and you will have a powerful and successful presentation!

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