You’ve got an important presentation coming up, and you’d like to take advantage of the available technology and include some visuals in your talk. It’s a no-brainer, right? You will just throw together some PowerPoint slides.
Not so fast. In the wrong hands, PowerPoint is more of a hindrance to your message than an asset. Used poorly, it can lead to confusion and boredom. On the other hand, when used well, PowerPoint slides can take your presentation to the next level, clarifying your points and making your ideas more memorable. Follow these guidelines to ensure that you’re wowing your audience—not wearing them out—with your PowerPoint presentation:
- Provide an outline. Introduce your presentation with a slide that indicates what your audience can expect from your talk. Use a standard outline format and be brief. Your audience will appreciate knowing where the presentation is headed.
- Be easy on the eyes. Choose fonts, colors and sizes that are easy to read, even for the last row of your audience. If in doubt, Ariel and Times New Roman are “safe” choices. The color of the font should contrast with the background of the slide: a very light font on a very dark background, or vice versa. All text—including captions and labels on images—should be large enough to be seen from anywhere in the room.
- Use text sparingly. The biggest complaint audience members have is presenters who stuff their slides with text and proceed to read it aloud. It’s boring and belittling. That’s not how you want to be remembered.
- Be selective with your images. Including charts, graphs and pictures is a great way to engage your audience. However, some images are more helpful than others. Avoid those that might distract your audience from your message. Example: Distorted or over-embellished graphs can confuse and sidetrack your audience.
- Make it interactive. Include slides that encourage your audience to actively participate in your presentation. Example: A short poll question is a quick way to engage your entire audience.
- Identify your projection tools. PowerPoint slides can show up very differently depending on how they are projected. You could assemble an awesome slideshow, but it will be for naught if your audience can’t see it clearly. If you’ll be projecting onto a wall or screen, find out if it’s white. Darker backgrounds can make some colored fonts hard to read and images difficult to make out. When possible, test equipment ahead of time.