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How to Prevent PowerPoint Panic
By Amanda Westland

A great PowerPoint presentation is a combination of content, design and delivery. All three are important and must work together to ensure your audience remembers your message. But when it boils down to it, PowerPoint is a combination of text, images and diagrams on a series of slides. How this is done can make or break your presentation.

I. VISUALS

"If I can't 'see' it, I don't understand it." Einstein

Benefits

1. Diagrams, graphs and images are an effective way of communicating information in a memorable way. E.g. it is quicker and more effective to demonstrate a rise in sales on a graph, than in a series of figures or blocks of text.
2. Visuals can be used to add interest and act as a support to your speech. This is more effective and memorable than reading text, from the slide.
3. They can simplify a complicated process or concept. Arrows or colours can be used to draw attention to key information.

Pitfalls

1. Use the right type of graph for the information:

  • Trends - line or area graphs
  • Relationships - pie charts
  • Compare and contrast - bar graphs
  • Process, Flow, timetables, company structures - diagrams

2. Make sure the colours in the diagrams reflect those used throughout the presentation.
3. Visuals should act as a support to your message. Keep it simple! E.g. the fewer lines, the better. There is no need for an axis scale and data points - remove extraneous details.

II. TEXT

In league with the devil!

Follow the 666 rule - no more than 6 word slides in a row, no more than 6 bullet points on a slide, no more than 6 words in a bullet point.

1. Use one or two fonts from the same family (preferably sans serif fonts such as Arial, Helvetica, Tahoma as they are easier to read)
2. Ensure the text can be clearly seen. Font size should be no less than 18 point if it is to be viewed comfortably on screen.
3. Use phrases rather than sentences. These act as a prompt to the point you are making and will ensure you do not just repeat what is on the slide.
4. Use the text placeholders set up in your slide master. Your titles and text blocks will always be in exactly the same place on each slide and your titles will not 'jump' from slide to slide.

III. TEMPLATE

Benefits

1. Clarity and consistency. A well thought out template contains:

  • Layout
  • Any recurring elements such as logos or images
  • Font type and size and
  • Line, font and background colours

If you get the template right, it will not only save you time but make your presentation look more professional ensuring consistency though out. There will be no shifting titles, wrong fonts or clashing colours, however many people work on the presentation.

2. Reinforce the corporate brand or image. Custom templates add impact and originality. Company colours and logos can be incorporated into the design thereby, re-enforcing the brand. Templates are available online from a variety of places (e.g. http://www.digitaljuice.com and http://www.websiteestates.com). There are specialised companies who will design a custom template for you (e.g. http://www.sortoutmypres.com and http://www.presentationpro.com)

Pitfalls

1. Ensure the background design will not overwhelm your text and diagrams.
2. The template should reflect both your corporate image and the key message of the presentation. E.g. a bright contemporary background would be inappropriate for a presentation intended to convey unwelcome news.
3. Be aware of your use of colour. Not only should they compliment the company brand, they should also reflect the point you are making. Remember - the colours you see on your PC will look different when projected and different again when you print them out.


IV. REVIEWING THE PRESENTATION

Take an objective and overall look at your presentation.

  • One slide - one point?
  • Clean, easy to understand?
  • Consistent in use of fonts, colours and layout?
  • Logical flow to the slides?

7 seconds to shutdown

If a slide's meaning is not apparent after 7 seconds the slide needs to be rethought.

"The very best leaders, almost without exception and at every level are master users of stories and symbols." Tom Peters, Management Consultant

Amanda Westland is Director of sortoutmypres.com, an online presentation design company. With her background as a designer on BBC News she has a wealth of experience in taking complex ideas and presenting them in a memorable way. Her corporate understanding of business issues was gained as a presentation designer in a busy management consultancy.

Amanda can be contacted at Amanda@capricorndesigns.co.uk or visit sortoutmypres at http://www.sortoutmypres.com







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