Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The 10 Commandments of PowerPoint Presentations

Every presentation and every audience is different. The rules below apply to actual presentations where an idea or product is being sold. These rules don't necessarily apply to small group project meetings, classes, etc.
  1. Have a good, well thought out, story and tell it well. PowerPoint will not save a bad presentation. The slides are just there to help support you by providing a framework for your words.
  2. Use handouts. Let the audience know they'll be getting the notes at the end, but don't hand them out at the beginning unless you want to be ignored.
  3. Use interesting professional stock photo images, not cheesy clipart. If you can't come up with a good, evocative, relevant image, don't use one.
  4. Only use transitions, animations, and effects if they're important to your story and help clarify a concept. Don't use them just to use them. At times an animated "building slide" can help you maintain audience focus on individual points. 
  5. Build your presentation from an outline. Put the whole story together first, and then start refining. You can use an outline format of your own choosing or you can try PowerPoint's outline view. In either case, purge slides ruthlessly. Your audience will thank you.
  6. Use fonts that are large enough for the room to see, not just the people in front. If you are forced to use smaller font, you're likely trying to cram too much on one page. You should never have to say "sorry for the eye chart everyone." What's the point of showing a slide no one can read? You're better off without it or, at least, breaking it into two slides.
  7. Practice. Practice makes professionals…in anything. Present to someone who knows the material and someone who doesn't. They'll both help you fill in the gaps and you will pick up valuable changes. If possible, record yourself and watch it. You will no doubt cringe several times, but better you than your audience. 
  8. Don't try to cram every slide with text, charts, images, and the like. Some of the most powerful, effective slides are less than ten words. If you need to use a chart keep it simple. It should make a point without too much narrative needed.
  9. Don't use more than 3-4 bullet points per slide, and use "sub-bullets" sparingly, if at all. If they're there to help you remember what to say, refer to rule 7. You want your audience listening to you, not reading slides.
  10. Don't put all your notes up on the slide, put them on index cards, work from an outline, or memorize them. You may also prefer to use PowerPoint's Notes pages. Just make sure to delete them if you hand out the slides.

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