There are 300 million PowerPoint users in the world and it’s estimated that there are a million presentations happening right now. But most of them are dull or even bad. It’s bizarre and it can really hurt your career.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Once you have got to the the core of your talk–the message you want the audience to take away–then, and only then, turn to your slide software. Here are two key tips to help you stand out from the crowd.
Think billboard, NOT document
This is probably the most important thing I can pass on.
People simply try to do too many things with their slides. Fundamentally, slides are for the audience, not for the speaker. Although it’s tempting, they should not be our crutch. Once we understand that they are for our audience, we design them in a bigger and bolder way. Feel free to make a word document to hand out after your talk if you like (although no-one ever reads those documents, in my experience), but don’t make your slides in that way. Build them for the bored bloke in row 33. Nancy Duarte helpfully compared slides to billboards in her book Slide:ology. Imagine you are passing your slides at 50mph on a major road. Could you read them as you drive past? If you can’t they are too complicated and wordy. It’s a simple but effective test for us.
Design your slides, and if appropriate, write some handout notes. But keep in mind that they are two very separate things. If you’re going to produce a presentation slide deck, then do just that–don’t be tempted to make it into a hand-out with a slightly larger font.
Bullets don’t just kill people, they kill presentations too. Sometimes when I see speakers present a slide with bullet points you can almost feel the people in the room deflate, they may not groan out loud, but they are inside. I’ve heard it said to limit the words on a slide to 33. I’d say 3-12! If you have more than that, then either rephrase, condense or add another slide. Be tough on bullet boredom and the causes of bullet boredom.
Give these simple tips a try this week, and watch your presentations get better and better. Tell great stories, be yourself, and let your slides be your backdrop–not your auto-cue.
This article is an exert from Lee’s book “PowerPoint Surgery: How to create presentation slides that make your message stick.” available from Amazon. Lee Jackson is a motivational speaker, powerpoint surgeon, presentation coach and the author of the 2013 book ‘Powerpoint Surgery’. He’s been speaking up front for more than twenty years in many challenging situations. As well as speaking himself, he loves helping other people to speak well too. He is a fellow of the Professional Speaking Association (PSA) and also the president of the PSA Yorkshire region. He supports the New York Knicks, is a former youth worker and was once an award winning DJ. You can get in touch with him here: via leejackson.biz or twitter @leejackson