I Googled “Death by Powerpoint” and got 12.6 million results. That’s a whole lot of frustrated ranting going on. Look, I get it. In most companies, if you’re serious about your project, you can’t show up to a meeting without a “deck” to explain it. But if people are glazing over, you’re not inspiring their best thinking.
Shortly after returning to Apple Steve Jobs said:
I hate the way people use slide presentations instead of thinking. People confront a problem by creating a presentation. I wanted them to engage, to hash things out at the table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.
For most of us that’s a nontroversy. But the Powerpoint requirement is still the norm. So for goodness sake, do us a favor and follow these 9 tips.
9 Ways to Improve Your Powerpoint Presentation
1. Start With Your Message
What do you want your audience TO DO as a result of your presentation? I’m always amazed at how fuzzy that often is. Don’t start with the deck, start with your message. Outline your talk track BEFORE working on the slides. Your slides are gravy, not the meat.
2. Simplify Your Text
Keep to the rule of one point per slide and make your point pop. Reinforce it with a 5-7 word call out box.
3. Use Clean Fonts
Don’t use more than three fonts. If you have to reduce font size to less than 24pt, you’re cramming too much in.
4. Let Your Headings Tell a Story
Go through the presentation and just read the headings. If your headings don’t tell a coherent story on their own, revise them.
5. Use Your Layout to Focus Attention
The most important places to put information are the heading, upper left side and the bottom.
6. Build a Model
7. Use Compelling Visuals
DO NOT use clip art. Instead find clean photographs that tell your story. If the image doesn’t enhance the meaning leave it out. If you present frequently, look for unique pictures as you’re out in the world, capture them with your phone and save them in a folder.
8. End with a Call to Action
Ask your audience for what you need or want them to do.
9. Create a Separate Leave Behind
One of the main reasons Powerpoints are so crammed full of words and data is that they’re created to be “cascaded” and shared by someone other than the presenter. If you want to capture your primary audience’s attention, build a few slides that truly support your main ideas. Then create a separate document with additional detail and supporting data.
Differentiate your message with clean slides that enhance your story, and your audience will have more energy left to engage and do what you need them to do.