One of the most tragic ways to die is through the use of Powerpoint. I’ve seen entire audiences slain in a matter of minutes by ineffective Powerpoint presentations. It’s a terrible sight to behold: body slumped, eyes glazed over, respiration non-existent, mouths hanging open.
It’s ugly. Worse than a zombie apocalypse.
But Powerpoint presentations don’t need to be like that!
Let’s take a look at what makes for good Powerpoint etiquette, but first I want to ask you this:
Do you need to use Powerpoint?
Powerpoint is a great tool – if you need it. I can think of a couple of reasons you may wish to use it:
it’s a handy prompt that you can use in place of your speaking notes
it can visually provide information that can’t be provided through speaking
it can succinctly remind people what you’ve just presented
If you’re nodding and saying, ‘yes, that sounds great’, then use Powerpoint. If the answer’s no, then don’t use it.
Why use Powerpoint?
The reason you’re using Powerpoint is to support your message. There isn’t another reason.
So what is good Powerpoint etiquette?
Here’s a few tips:
Use bullet points and only bullet points
Don’t write your presentation out on the slide. It’s a terrible idea. Why? People can read faster than you can speak. By the time you’re half way down the page, the audience has already read the whole slide and has fallen asleep.
Each bullet point should be a maximum of three or four words. One or two is better. And no more than four or five bullet points per slide.
Again, less is better. What’s the ideal? Four bullet points with one to two words on each line.
Only use professional, clear images that spell out what you’re saying. You know the expression: a picture speaks a thousand words.
Once again, the image must present a single, clear idea. That’s all. To get an idea of what constitutes a beautiful, clear image, take a look at the National Geographic site. These are all magnificent, clear images that present a single idea. Only use images that do this.
If you’re inserting charts, make certain they’re instantly understandable. Get rid of the chart if someone needs to gaze at it for longer than ten seconds to understand it.
Use a slide advancer
This is a little handheld device that you use to advance to the next slide. It means you can step away from your laptop and use the whole stage.
Here’s another advantage: you can blank the slide. This puts the focus back on you. When the screen goes black, the audience members will naturally turn their gaze to you.
Also, design your slides in such a way that you can ‘reveal’ the next piece of information when you’re ready. So if you have four bullet points, you can reveal number one, number two etc, one at a time. Once again, this stops people from reading ahead.
You know those spinning effects and dissolves that you can use to transition from one slide to the next? Don’t use them! They’re unprofessional – and take away from your message. Just click from one slide to the next.
Again, you know those wonderful Powerpoint templates? They put a piece of art at the top or bottom of each slide? Don’t use templates! Repetition spells death in Powerpoint presentations. Each slide should be dynamic and engaging.
Fonts and colours
This sort of goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway! Use a clear, legible font, and bright colours. The font should be ariel or similar. Don’t use weird halloween fonts or script that can’t be instantly read.
Make a visual change every three or four slides. If you’ve had three slides in a row with bullet points on them, make the fourth slide a single image. Again, if you’ve had four slides in a row that have a single image, have a single word on slide five. Break it up. Make it dynamic. Make it exciting!
If you haven’t seen Simon Sinek’s TED talk about why people buy, take a look at it, and particularly focus on his flip chart. The images on that chart are a good example of the simplicity of what we’re trying to communicate. (Of course, your images have to be professionally produced).
Put the information on your slide and then ask yourself this: how can I make this simpler? Make it simpler and then ask yourself again: how can I make this even MORE simple.