Presentation Skills 101 – Three Tips for Using PowerPoint Effectively

PowerPoint presentations may be the curse of our age, while it can be an effective tool for backing up your talk all too often it becomes an ugly distraction from what you are going to say. The best presenters always remember their audience is there to listen to them and not watch a slideshow. Here are three simple tips for making sure your audience is with you and not flinching at your visuals.

Keep the Slides to a Minimum

The first key is to make sure you aren’t overdoing the visual information, if your audience has to keep up with an endless procession of slides they simply cannot concentrate on what you are saying. You should have no more than one slide for every 5 minutes you speak, excluding the cover page and the thank you/goodbye page. More than that and you won’t be the focus of attention and your message will be lost.

Keep Content to a Minimum

Let’s be blunt about this, your visuals should be visual. That means get rid of any unnecessary wording, and at most if you want to include words you should have no more than seven bullet points on a slide and no more than seven words per bullet point. The objective is to highlight key content, not to replicate your speech, if you really feel you need to churn out the whole content of your talk – then create handouts and don’t give them to people until you’ve finished speaking. The more you write down, the more your audience will be reading and not listening.

Wherever possible make sure your visuals are pictorial instead, use graphs, pie charts, pictures, flow diagrams, to enhance your points and reveal key data and trends. Audiences can then relate to your speech, which should explain what they see and add to it.

Lose the Effects

Yes, you can do amazing things with PowerPoint – graphics can swoop onto the screen, slide onto it, bounce, etc. and yet none of this adds any value to your talk at all. If you really must use effects, then be consistent, only use one and use it all the way through. It’s always better not to use them at all though, they are distracting and in the long run a huge source (of unintended) mirth for the audience.

Making a presentation can be nerve wracking enough without spending forever developing an all encompassing PowerPoint display which only detracts from your talk, keep it simple by following these three rules and you’ll always be better received.