With presentation season upon us (Initial Public Offerings, Annual General Meetings and Financial Seminars), the timing is right for some tips on developing Powerpoint presentations. I see so many of these that suffer from lack of focus. If you’re new to the process, working with technology can make it hard to keep your mind on the overall objective. Remember, Powerpoint is “support.” YOU are the main event. So here is a checklist to refer to as you work through it all:
1. KISS. The most important rule is to “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” And the second part of this is “LESS IS MORE!” We so often want to include everything but the kitchen sink, often to bolster our credibility. Don’t do it! If you need to communicate a complicated chart or table, put it in a handout. But don’t hand it out till the end, or your audience will be concentrating on it and not on you.
2. Rule 66. Six lines per text per 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 points. 36 pt is better.
3. Sections. 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, and color coding them so that they understand when you’re in a new section. Remember to provide an agenda; tell them what your plan is. Don’t leave them guessing.
4. Fonts. No more than three fonts in the entire presentation is the best idea. In many instances, two will suffice. And try to stick to system fonts – nothing exotic. Remember, if you’re sharing your presentation (sending to another computer), you need to embed the fonts before you do so, or it could look entirely different.
5. Contrast. The rule is light on dark (not black) with as much contrast as possible. The problem with a light or white screen is in the light from the projector. A white background can be like looking into a headlight – hard on the eyes. A dark background with yellow or white text is the best way to go.
6. Pictures. The originals should be no more than a screen size of 720 X 540 at 72 dots per inch. This is only about 1 megabite per image. A large dpi is wasted on the screen. Very large files can cause Powerpoint memory problems and your presentation can crash.
7. Registration. Register the objects on your slides against previous slides. Make use of masters as much as possible. They will help you keep your charts and text in the same place on each screen. Having text, charts and pictures move around the screen from slide to slide is distracting and looks unprofessional.
8. Grammar. Avoid abbreviations or jargon. If you must use abbreviations, and you make them plural, remember, there’s no apostrophe before the ‘s.’ It should be VCRs, not VCR’s.
9. Builds. Builds can be a very powerful way to keep the audience with you at important points in your presentation. But builds on absolutely every slide can be annoying. Use it when it makes sense. And try to keep the flying text to a minimum!
10. Graphs. You want your graphs to be as simple as possible. I tend to shy away from the 3D effect (eg. bar depth), as it results in unnecessary clutter. If you have an important trend to show, try adding an arrow in the appropriate direction (use it as a build to reinforce the direction of the trend).
11. Do one thing well. Don’t make your presentation too complicated and don’t try to fit everything in. Concentrate on making one to three key points. That’s all your audience will absorb in one sitting. Too much will leave them wondering what your presentation was really about.