Master Your Message for Maximum Impact

Seven Annoying Things About Presentations

Would you like to be able to quickly develop powerful and highly persuasive Powerpoint presentations? I don’t mean from a technical perspective, but rather powerful in terms of their ability to communicate a message. All it takes is following a few rules – most of them imposed by your audience. But if you listen to them, they will thank you profusely, perhaps even applaud.

In a recent survey done over the internet, respondents were asked to name the top three things they found the most annoying about Powerpoint presentations they’ve seen. Here’s what they said:

The speaker read the slides to us

Text so small I couldn’t read it

Full sentences instead of bullet points

Slides hard to see because of color choice

Moving/flying text or graphics

Annoying use of sounds

Overly complex diagrams or charts

No flow of ideas – jumped around too much

60.4%

50.9%

47.8%

37.1%

24.5%

22.0%

22.0%

18.9%

From an online survey conducted by Dave Paradi, MBA, a published author and professional speaker, specializing in the proper use of supporting visuals.

You’ll find him at Think Outside The Slide.

So, now you know what NOT to do. Here are the first 6 (of 15) Basic Rules for designing slides for business presentations:

1. Visuals are SUPPORT!

Slides should not replace you. They should complement you, enhance your point or make it clearer; give it more impact. Slides should make your audience say “aha!” They should be “sound bytes” of information. Don’t get up and simply read from your slides. Remember, that’s what the audience DISLIKES THE MOST.

You don’t need a slide for everything in your presentation. There are only 5 reasons to  use graphic support:

  1. To clarify a point
  2. To reinforce a point
  3. For emotional appeal
  4. To transport your audience to another location
  5. To show any object or visually explain a concept

So use graphics sparingly – when you really need them and they’ll achieve their maximum power.

2. Less is More. Bigger is Better.

Your slides must be readable by the back row. Big text, strong graphics and pictures – the simpler, the better. Your audience won’t retain more than a few major points in your presentation. They certainly aren’t going to remember a whole screen full of information. Remember the KISS principle (Keep It Simple).

Here’s the “Rule of 66.” Six lines per text screen (plus title), with six words per line max. Any more and you have a cluttered slide, with more information and detail than your audience can absorb, or see (depending on the size of the text). Text should not be under 24 pts; 36 pt is better. Take out unnecessary words. Remember, you’re the one who’ll explain it. The text is there to make your point clearer, easier to understand or remember.

How to simply charts3. Get to the POINT!

Lines of text should be in “point form.” That means they must contain only what is critically necessary to support or reinforce your key point. If you use a full sentence, make sure it’s truly important in making your point – it should be memorable. It must be short (less than 20 words) and it should make your point better than ANY other alternative. Your audience won’t remember it unless it has impact. Quotes are usually the most effective sentences.

4. Contrast is Critical!

Your visuals must be designed for maximum contrast, Here’s the key: light on dark. That’s light text on a dark background. Why dark backgrounds? Because projectors throw a lot of white light on a screen, which is HIGHLY REFLECTIVE, anything subtle will “wash out.” Viewing a screen with a white background can be like looking into the headlight of a freight train. The light from the projector is actually bouncing off the white screen right back into your eyes! With a rear screen situation, it’s simply blasting through the screen to similar effect. The bright white background makes the little dark text difficult to read. It’s much easier to read white or yellow text on a dark background.

5. Hold the Mayo!

Some people put mayonnaise on everything, whether it needs it or not. In a similar manner, effects are fun to develop, but if they don’t further the point you’re making, they’re clutter – they’ll smother the wonderful flavor of your message. Using flying text and zooming images for the sake of movement is just plain distracting. Getting your point across is tough enough without annoying the audience and getting them completely off the topic at hand.

6. Graphs Must Grab. Charts Must Clarify.

I often see people using 3D effects on graphs to give their bars depth. But the depth doesn’t necessarily add to the understanding of the graph. In fact, it clouds the meaning and clutters up the screen. Make the bars and information pertaining to them as clear and easy to understand as possible. Get rid of anything on the screen that isn’t absolutely necessary to make your point. Less is more! And make sure to design your graph to skew the message as much as possible to the point you’re trying to make.

7. Share the Map.

Think of your audience as being in an underground parking lot or subway when they’re listening to your presentation. They don’t know where you’re going without you providing a map. The map can be as simple as modularizing your talk into chapters, or modules and color coding them (with icons on the screen, for example) so that they understand when you’re in a new section. Remember to provide an agenda in your opening; tell them what your plan is. Don’t leave them guessing.

Visuals can add tremendous power and clarity to any presentation. But used improperly, will weaken your message and alienate your audience. They also require additional rehearsal time, in order to make sure they properly support the things you say. You are the MAIN EVENT. Slides are simply powerful support – but only as powerful as the ability of YOU (the presenter) to use them properly.

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