Nothing can be more powerful or distracting than a presentation. One author estimates that over thirty million PowerPoint presentations are made every day. I’m sure you have attended your fair share of them. But I wonder how many were truly captivating, motivating, or convincing? Probably very few.
The goal of any presentation is to communicate visually. The effective presenter makes it simple for the audience to grasp ideas without having to work. A successful presentation leads the audience to a logical conclusion.
Here are five simple principles to remember when creating effective presentations:
1. You Are the Presenter, Not Your Presentation
This is the biggest mistake a speaker can make. Whether you are using PowerPoint or Keynote, you should be the focus not your slides. If you don’t have a well prepared message, PowerPoint can’t help save you. It will actually only make things worse. Know what you are going to say and let your slides play a supporting role.
2. Less Is More
This should be your guiding principle. The moment you flash a slide on the screen the audience stops listening to you and starts evaluating the slide. They first look at the design. Second, they begin to read the text. Third, they return to listening to you. If your slide is too detailed with no clear point, the audience will leave the presentation wondering what it was all about. The remedy is simple. Give the audience only what they need to know.
3. Think Like a Designer
Every decision a designer makes is intentional. There should always be a purpose to your visuals. Sketch out what you want to say before you ever even consider slides. Many presentations lack flow which makes the sequence of ideas so confusing that the audience is unable to follow.
4. Elements of a Good Slide
It is laziness on the part of the presenter to put everything on one slide. In Seth Godin’s book, Really Bad PowerPoint, he contends that you should never have, “More than six words on a slide. EVER.” Though there may be times you need more than six words, it is always a good goal. If the text is too long, consider breaking it up into several slides. Remember to keep your font choices simple. Use fonts that are easy to see at a distance such as sans serif fonts—Helvetica, Gill Sans, Myriad Pro, etc.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
In the car, on the treadmill, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Especially if you are not the one advancing your slides. The speaker and teleprompter must be in harmony. If you started preparing the night before, clearly the presentation was low on your priority list. The amount of time required to develop a presentation is directly proportional to how high the stakes are. Nancy Duarte in her book Slide:ology estimates that a one-hour presentation with thirty slides can take as long as 36-90 hours to prepare. With that in mind, how long did it take you to prepare yours? Effective presentations require time and focus. So start early.