Presentation perfection: Using PowerPoint™ effectively

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PowerPoint has been used in presentations since its debut in the 1980s, but even today, PowerPoint presentations are a practiced skill. Some professionals are experts in what makes for a great presentation, while others are quite the opposite—and can be defined as one or more of the following:The Hyperactive
This presenter is a ball of energy … that happens to be completely unfocused. His or her presentation consists of lots of animation, plenty of sound effects, text flying in from all directions, a different transition for each slide and absolutely no cohesive design. Every color in the rainbow is used along with every font available, in every size. This presenter could be giving the next Gettysburg Address and no one would notice because they’d be too distracted by this messy PowerPoint.

The Teleprompter
Every word of this presenter’s speech is written on each slide. And, the presenter reads each slide word for word, usually while looking directly at the presentation. Audience members undoubtedly begin to lose focus and find themselves wondering how many slides until naptime ends.

The Murphy’s Law
It becomes quite clear from the get-go that this presenter has not done his or her due diligence. The first five minutes of the presentation involve trying to figure out how to connect the projector and pull up the correct file. Once started, the presenter mumbles and repeats, making it clear he/she didn’t rehearse. Slide timing is off, none of the links work and the embedded video is slowed by the internet connection. Audience members become frustrated and offended by the lack of preparation and respect for their time, completely missing the purpose of the content covered.
So, how does one avoid becoming one of these PowerPoint disasters? We have a few pointers (pun intended!) for you:

  • First and foremost, remember that a PowerPoint is simply a visual aid. It is used to reinforce your presentation while highlighting the most important information you would like audience members to take away, keeping the text within six to eight words per slide. Your PowerPoint should never take the focus away from you and what you have to say, nor is it a teleprompter.
  • Make it short. Depending on content, a 15-30 minute presentation is plenty of time to get your key points across without boring the crowd.
  • While your PowerPoint should be reflective of your brand and the overall presentation, keep the design simple. Use contrasting colors – white or pastel-shaded backgrounds are best – with dark, legible fonts. Make each slide design and layout consistent, and reflective of your brand. Remember, too, that bullet points are your best friend.
  • Switch it up. Consider using visual slides instead of text slides. When done effectively, this technique allows you to entertain and surprise your audience while enforcing your messages, acting like a visual mnemonic device.
  • Don’t just present, engage! Especially useful in large groups, distribute Hand Fans prior to your presentation so questions are easy to spot. Have a ‘pop quiz’ on your presentation at the end, and give away fun prizes for those who answer correctly—a Mini Harmonica Key Chain or a Hexi Decision Dice-Decide are fun and easy giveaways.
  • Go easy on the animation. While fun to create, animation can be overkill in many presentations. Stay away from it completely unless it improves or adds to the presentation. Dancing stick figures or exploding fireworks do not have a place in your sales meeting presentation. Like the slide design, keep it consistent—use the same transition on each slide and the same text emphasis. Instead of drawing eyes to a particular point through animation, consider arming yourself and other office presenters with an Adva-Lite Aquarii Laser Pointer or a Rialto Laser Pointer / Presenter.
  • Consider music and video carefully. Like animation, before using it, ask yourself if including these features improves the presentation—perhaps by reinforcing or illustrating a point or message. If you’re hesitant about this, it’s probably best to leave out. Video can have the potential to add an interactive element to your presentation…when it’s relevant.
  • Do audience members a favor while maximizing your opportunity to make a lasting impression—provide handouts and notes for your presentation, and make your PowerPoint available on a file sharing site like SlideShare.com afterward.
  • Practice, practice, practice!

Don’t be The Hyperactive, The Teleprompter or The Murphy’s Law PowerPointer. Instead, be a pro. With practice, content and confidence, you’re sure to give a presentation that’s memorable for all the right reasons.

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