By Wade Paterson
Many business-related presentations leverage visual aids — such as Powerpoint slides — as supplemental content to enhance the speech.
But simply using slides doesn’t guarantee you will make your speech better; in fact, some visual aids can distract or take away from the presentation.
In this article (and video), I share four tips of how you can create a Powerpoint presentation that doesn’t put your audience to sleep.
Tip #1 – Use minimal text and make it big enough to read
A Powerpoint slide with no words speaks much louder than a Powerpoint slide with 50 words. But if you insist on including text within your slide, it shouldn’t be smaller than size 50.
At first, that might seem outrageously big — especially if your previous presentations included an abundance of text — but this will force you to use a minimal number of words, which is a good thing.
Too much text on the screen is distracting. Instead of listening to the words you’re saying, your audience will squint as they try to read every single word on the slide. The likelihood of them retaining much of your message in this scenario is low.
Instead of full sentences, use a few key words that represent the subject you’re talking about along with powerful imagery or even a looping video.
Tip #2 – Don’t write out your speech word-for-word… use your slides as your cue
One of the reasons I’m a fan of minimal text is that it gives you an opportunity you to re-think the way you write your speeches. Instead of writing out all the words you want to say to the audience verbatim, you can build your speech by selecting powerful images or looping video clips that represent the various things you want to talk about.
As an example: Pretend you work for city hall and you are preparing a presentation on the increase of traffic in a local neighbourhood. Instead of having a Powerpoint slide filled with boring text of various statistics, you could have a short looping video of a local street that is recognizable in the community with a single, powerful number that represents the percentage increase of traffic you’re speaking about.
This method is far more likely to allow an audience member to recall the most important statistic than a presentation overloaded with text and statistics.
This doesn’t mean you have to leave the details out: you can always have handouts with detailed statistics printed off and hand those out to your audience at the conclusion of your presentation.
Tip #3 – Don’t turn your back to the audience to read slides
It is a common mistake for a speaker to turn his/her back to the audience to read text on the slides.
If you are following Tip #1, this should be less of an issue; however, for some reason it’s still tempting to turn around and double check what the audience is seeing. But doing this can be distracting for the audience and takes away a level of professionalism.
A strategy for avoiding this is placing your computer or laptop off to the side in a place where you can see it and the screen is facing you. Whatever slide is showing on the computer screen will be the same slide your audience can see.
Tip #4 – Check the tech beforehand
A good rule of thumb when it comes to Powerpoint presentations is that something related to technology is almost always likely to go wrong.
Perhaps you have a presentation clicker that runs out of batteries, or one of your slides was accidentally deleted before you had a chance to save the presentation.
It’s important to arrive early at the venue you will be giving your presentation to make sure everything is working properly. It’s also a good idea to bring extra equipment if you happen to have back-ups (for example: copy your presentation onto two different USB drives in case one of them becomes corrupt or doesn’t work properly).
Similar to the importance of practicing a speech, it’s also important to practice using the technology to ensure it adds to your presentation, rather than taking away from it.
By following these four tips, you will come across as a professional who is incredibly experienced at delivering presentations with visual aids.
If you’re interested in learning more about being an impactful communicator, please subscribe to my YouTube channel as it’s my goal to produce many more videos like this.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.