PowerPoint has revolutionised presentations.
But too many people now use it as a substitute for thinking. They launch the application before they’ve even considered what they want to say or what information will help the audience take in what they’re saying. Too often, the result is as exciting as a presentation on watching a plank warp.
The key is to let this tool support your talk, not to let it take over. So here’s a two-minute guide on how to write PowerPoint presentations:
With the first slide, introduce yourself. (Obvious we know, but it’s surprising how many people miss this one.) This frame can be up as your audience comes in if yours is the first or only talk in the session. It should feature:
• the title of your talk
• your name
• your position.
To use bullets effectively:
• stick to five bullets maximum
• keep each point to ten words maximum
• write statements, not descriptions
• cut all non-essential words
• double-check grammar, spelling and punctuation
• avoid flashy animations – they’re just distracting.
Graphics can add variety. Just make sure they are:
• not too detailed
• making a clear point
• properly labelled.
Sometimes a graphic on its own (ie with no text or other information) can work well to hold attention and liven up your talk. Sites like Flickr or CDs of copyright-free images can be useful here if you’re on a tight budget. Although £30 spent on a decent image from a photo library can make your presentation far more professional.
Include holding frames when you want more attention on you. Avoid blank screens, it will look like something has gone wrong. Use your holding frame if you have no suitable illustration too. The holding frame should contain as little information as possible, eg just your organisation’s logo and web address.
Avoid putting too much on your screen
PowerPoint is there to support your talk. But filling the screen won’t help your cause at all. It’s easy to overestimate how much people can read on a slide. So don’t stuff it full of statistics and excess verbiage.
What’s more, if you put something on screen, remember that people will read it rather than listen to you, so you just end up wasting your breath. Less is more, therefore. (See the point about using images in isolation, above.)
And finally …
Always think about your audience:
• keep things moving: aim for about one frame a minute
• vary the pace slightly
• plan your talk separately
You can learn more about writing presentations and speeches on one of our courses.