PowerPoint takes advantage of the fact that most of us learn best visually. PowerPoint adds visual interest to our presentations, organizes our points and allows us to present to people in ways that enhance our ability to connect with and persuade audiences.
Best of all, PowerPoint is easy to learn and use. Because it is so easy to use, however, it can also be easy to misuse or not use effectively. Here are five top tips for making good use of PowerPoint in your presentations:
1 . Make Use of Other Presentation Elements That Work Well
If you find slides that you like (and get permission), import those slides into your presentations or use them as models. If you like the colors or textures you see at a presentation, find out what they are and use them in your next presentation. Many speakers will give you copies of their slides or tell you how they prepared them. It never hurts to ask. Better yet, make use of the pre-fabricated templates and presentations that come with PowerPoint or that can be downloaded from the Microsoft web site or other sites on the Internet. PowerPoint also has “wizards” that walk you through a set of choices and automatically generate the format of your slides. Most of us are not graphics artists, but the people who put the templates and wizards together are. The point is to communicate if someone has a good way of doing things, learn from it and use it.
2 . Don’t Overuse Effects or Overcrowd Slides
Don’t let people focus on the “gee whiz” aspects of your program. You want them to focus on the content of your presentation and on you as the deliverer of that content. Crowded slides turn off audiences and obscure your main points. Your slides should be designed to illustrate your speech, not to replace your handouts. Don’t cram them with information that belongs in a handout. Limit your points on a slide to 3 to 6 points. Avoid sub-headings. Instead, break major points into separate slides. Stick with the same backgrounds, styles and transition effects throughout your presentation. Think carefully before using animations, sound and video. It’s best to use those effects sparingly they’ll have more impact. On each slide use 3 to 6 bullet points and a single, simple graphic that illustrates the slide title. Bring points onto the slide one at a time with minimal special effects, “gray out” points after you are finished with them. This approach gives better control and pace. PowerPoint gives you plenty of tools to fit your style.
3 . Prepare for the Unexpected
Any experienced speaker can tell you hair-raising tales about WiFi problems, network errors, microphones, seating and a variety of other elements that can go wrong. Using presentation programs, laptop computers and projectors brings in a whole new dimension of things that can go wrong. The best advice: get to the room early and get everything set up and tested. If you make a lot of presentations, give serious thought to buying your own projector – you can get mini hand-held devices ideal for small meeting rooms.
4 . Think Like Someone in Your Audience
Picture what your audience will be seeing and hearing. Spend more time on content than on design issues. You can be creative but don’t be silly. A very important point: readability. Use large fonts. If you can’t fit all your points on a slide without moving to a smaller font, break the points up onto separate slides. Colors matter because they have connotations. For example, you want to avoid reds because they can agitate people negatively. Font styles and graphics choices set your professional image, so be smart in your choices.
5 . Practice, Practice, Practice
Your success with the PowerPoint presentations will depend on how comfortable you are using the program. It is vital to practice your speech and running the laptop computer at the same time because you have to do both at the same time in your presentation. If you can’t do both at once, it makes excellent sense to have someone else run the laptop computer. You don’t have to do everything, especially if it inhibits your performance. You will want to practice your talk with the person who is running the computer. It can be easier to do full rehearsals of talks with slides than it is when using only notes.
While PowerPoint will not take the place of communication skills, it can be a great tool for enhancing and improving your skills. You can learn to be a great presenter through practice, repetition, hard work, study and the right tools. Keep in mind, though, that the best speakers are the ones who are able to speak in a way that is most congruent with their own personality. The more authentic you are the more effective the communicator you are. The power of PowerPoint is that it gives you the flexibility to use your own style and get your message across to your audience. These tips for using PowerPoint will help make you a top-notch communicator.