Tips on PowerPoint Presentations from Microsoft

Like cell phones and emails, PowerPoint presentations are something we all use (or, at least, we’re exposed to…even in a corporate setting). However, just like cell phones and emails, not everyone follows proper etiquette when using PowerPoint.
The good people at Microsoft website have provide the following Ten Commandments to remember and follow when creating and using presentation slides. In addition to these, keep in mind an old, but excellent adage: K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple Stoopid.

Please see the Microsoft website for the complete article.

  1. Hold up your end with compelling material.
    While this seems pretty simple, almost all of us have witnessed presentations where things get dry PDQ. As presenters, we sometimes forget that – while we may want to know every crook and nanny of a particular subject – others many not be as interested as we are. So, keep the audience engage with relevant iconographic representations.
  2. Keep it simple.
    This, above all others, should be the Cardinal Commandment for presentations. Certainly, an hour-long presentation containing only one slide (that only gives the presenter’s name and title) would be of little value to the audience; so, too, is providing too much information. Know your audience and customize your slides to pique their interest, not bore them.
  3. Minimize numbers in slides.
    There is a time and place for everything — so I’ve been told. So, while there are certain situations that call for 35 slides of equations and number charts, it is best to keep extensive data at a minimum. Keep in mind that presentations are a visual medium, primarily. If numbers and extensive mathematical data is absolutely needed, try using visual representations instead (this can be done in Excel with little technical expertise).
  4. Don’t parrot PowerPoint.
    Very few audiences like to be insulted. If the information is projected on a 10 ft screen in front of the audience, there is no need to read a paragraph verbatim to the audience. Use bullet points to highlight central theses of your arguments and expositions. In addition to not offering insult to your audience, you are providing them with abridged and easily-consumable nuggets of knowledge to jot down or take with them.
  5. Time your remarks.
    Moderators silently wish that the presenter will not go over their allotted time. Unless they have given the presentation several times, ad nauseum , few presenters know exactly how long their presentation will run. The answer is to practice the presentation beforehand and note the slide timings.
  6. Give it a rest.
    Pacing is one of the most important elements of presentations. Look at your presentation from a thematic viewpoint. Break up longer topics (lasting more than 5 slides or so) with a transitional slide, which will give your audience a brief moment to absorb all the information presented. This transitional slide can be a summation of main points or even anecdotal in nature.
  7. Use vibrant colors.
    We are no longer limited by technology to monochromatic color themes. Use colors that contrast well, to catch attention. (Ex. use brightly colored text font on darker background colors.) Don’t overboard…no one wants their retinas singed.
  8. Import other images and graphics.
    As a visual medium, images and graphics represent the meat and potatoes of presentations. Use these elements in ways that best represent the overall theme of your presentation. However, do not overuse them, as they can detract from the overall message (ask yourself: does have a red-and-blue flashing police car lights really add something to my message?). In addition, only use images and graphs that you (*the presenter) have the right to use (ones you’ve created yourself or those that you’ve been given explicit permission to use).
  9. Distribute handouts at the end — not during the presentation.
    This one is a toss-up. If you feel your audience needs to make notes during your presentation — especially if you have done a good job of only using bulleted information and provide quite a bit of supplemental and anecdotal information — go ahead and give handouts for them to use. However, if it is more important to have the audience’s undivided attention, use handouts after you present.
  10. Edit ruthlessly before presenting.
    Nothing subtracts from your authority on a particular subject than tiny typos, such as using their instead of they’re and (my wife’s favorite) using it’s where its should be used. Use spell-checker and your common sense equally and your presentation will reek of authority.

These rules are not limited to just PowerPoint presentations and can apply to almost any presentation of materials, even online learning management systems, CD-ROMs, and websites. Always keep in mind: keep things simple and your audience will appreciate you (and your information) even more.

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