Making a Presentation Work…
How many of us imagine wrapping up our presentation to a standing ovation? Or entertaining a lively, stimulating discussion at its conclusion? Or, perhaps, leaving the audience with such a lasting impression that we are quoted whenever the presented topic crops up in conversations?
Yet, how many of us feel restless the night before a big annual speech? Or fiddle and overly gesticulate to compensate for the jitters? Or fumble with words when someone in the front row stifles an obstinate yawn?
Of course, there are ways to grab your audience’s attention- crack a joke to put them (and yourself) at ease, bring a puppet and show off your ventriloquist skills, or tap dance to the music of your company’s latest radio jingle. This would certainly wake them up from their reverie, take them by surprise, and maybe even elicit polite laughter.
But some of us didn’t win the Talent Show at school and prefer to stick to the discussion topic. Cool stunts, light and sound effects or smooth talking don’t make a successful presentation. Sure, being a good speaker goes a long way in making an outstanding PowerPoint presentation, but content is equally important. Having said that, always remember that text splattered on a slide will not make people sit up and listen; relevant content that engages everyone in that conference room, definitely will!
Usually, when we pick a topic, we have a fair idea of the flow and sequence of broad sections of the PPT. Let’s assume you are well-versed on your topic and have chalked out a broad outline of your presentation. The next essential step is to concisely tie together this extensive amount of data.
Let’s look at 5 basic tenets of presenting information effectively on PPT slides to give our listeners the most bang for their buck.
Tenet # 1- Size Matters
When it comes to entering text on your slide, make sure the font size is big enough to be legible. What you share on your slide is rendered meaningless if half the audience is leaning forward to read what is written. Also, don’t go overboard with intricate font styles. Using a unique font is very different from a cryptic, cursive font reminiscent of the 70s’ Flower Power era! Ensure that fonts are clear, simple and readable for maximum impact of your information.
Tenet # 2- Paragraph Paranoia
Your audience is in attendance to engage with you, not to read a long-drawn report projected on slides. Neither is PowerPoint a high-end teleprompter for the speaker, but a tool to complement speech. It really isn’t fair to dump paragraph after persistent paragraph on your poor listeners and expect them to relish the experience. As a basic thumb rule, don’t put more than 3-4 sentences in a slide. Let the focus remain on you and not on the 17th sentence of the 2nd paragraph! If you can find an interesting picture that truly conveys your thoughts, even one or two vital statements can do the trick.
Tenet # 3- Create that 1000-word Story
If I received a dime for each time someone told me a picture is worth a thousand words, I would be sailing in the French Riviera by now! Well, yacht or no yacht, this is an important tenet to consider each time you create a PPT. Use lots of pictures to communicate, connect and set a mood across your presentation. These could be images from Google or Flickr, stock photographs, caricatures or even illustrations from 24point0’s range of products. When each slide helps visualize a story, even the most sceptical listener would be mesmerized.
Tenet # 4- Connect the Dots
With our consistently decreasing attention spans, it’s important to use maximum visual tools and keep content crisp. A good technique is to keep the same slide for not more than 5 seconds. This is enough time to go through a visually-rich slide with minimal text, and move on to the next one. Let your PPT resemble a film with multiple frames and have the audience connect the dots to form the story. Keep your slides moving at a quick but consistent pace for an extraordinary response.
Tenet # 5- Succinct, Simple & Sharp Structure
Follow a typical presentation template if you must, but make sure your communication is short and easy to understand. Run-on sentences, multiple pie charts or bullet lists squeezed together on a single slide, jostling each other for space and attention? Not a good idea. Keep minimal text and one relevant visual piece and you would achieve a whole lot more.
These are some guidelines that would help you in effective content placement. Most of these are obvious, but tend to slip our minds during stressful circumstances. It is, therefore, advisable to manage your time so that presentations can be crafted in a planned, meticulous way. Information, tips and pointers on creating PPTs are also available online. Get started by checking out this video by Presentation Expert, Patrick Dixon from Futurist. Some of his tips have even given me food for thought for this article.
With these handy guidelines, wishing you luck for your next presentation is almost unnecessary. So, go ahead and own that podium!