Launched by Microsoft in 1990, PowerPoint has become of the most used business presentation software. While Microsoft has crafted PowerPoint into a powerful tool, too many users are still unclear about how to effectively create and use presentations. After 30 years in the corporate presentation industry, I have seen more bad PowerPoint shows than I care to remember. So I thought I would put together a few common mistakes to help you avoid them and have more effective presentations.
– One of the most common mistakes I see is trying to jam too much information onto a single slide. As a “rule of thumb” I tell presenters to never use typefaces smaller than 18 points. Remember that your audience will be trying to read your slides from a distance. Although it may be easy to read from your laptop or desktop when creating the presentation, keep in mind that your audience will be anywhere from 6’ to 60’ from the screen. I often tell people that to simulate the audience experience, preview your presentation from 3’ away from your laptop screen. If you can read it clearly, you should be in good shape. Also remember, it is not necessary to have your entire speech on PowerPoint slides. It’s more effective to have the slides re-enforce the key points. For especially large audiences, use more graphics than type. Recent studies have shown that your audience will retain more of your message through the use of graphics and animation in your presentations.
– Another common mistake revolves around the choice of colors for the slides. At a recent event, I was working with a company that gave me a presentation with blue letters on a black background, and another with yellow letters on a white background. The presenter seemed surprised that no one was able to read his slides. Choose contrasting colors for the type and the backgrounds as to improve visibility. Yellow letters on a dark blue background for example. The greater the contrast between the text and the background, the better the readability will be for the audience.
Method of showing
- While not as obvious as some of the other factors, it is helpful to know how your presentation is being shown when creating it. My first concern would be to the aspect ratio of the screen. If presenting on LCD/LED screens, your aspect ratio should be 16:9 (image is 16 units wide for every 9 units tall). If you are using projectors, your aspect ration can be a wide variety of ratios. Commonly used ratios are 16:9, 4:3, 16:10, and 5:3. The point is that screens are valuable real estate and you should be looking to fill as much of the screen as possible. I would also pay attention to the screen size versus the audience size. The further away the last row of your audience is away from the screen, the larger typeface you should be using.
While these concepts would not guarantee that you will put out that killer presentation you are looking for, avoiding these common faux pas will help you to get your message across.