How to avoid common slide show mistakes

A few weeks ago I saw the world’s worst PowerPoint slide presentation. The memory of those cluttered slides was still rattling round in my brain when it came time to make my monthly contribution to the webinar run by the International Institute for Business Analysis.

And guess what the subject was: effective PowerPoints.

It seems people still need a lot of help with slide shows. Simplicity and creativity are the keys to memorable presentations. So here are some tips we offer in our presentation skills workshops.

  • Write out in point form your PowerPoint content first. Use a storyboard if you want, or cue cards. Once you have a structure that will strategically accomplish your aim, then – and only then – create the slides.
  • Kill the bullets. Use a picture that appeals to the emotions and tell the audience what your bullets would have said. All presentations are theatre. Understand that and you will never be dull.
  • Kill sentences. Use a single word or maybe two words.
  • Use videos. Just make sure you have speakers for the sound.
  • Never read to the audience.
  • Keep your notes on cue cards in your hand. Use them instead of speaker’s notes on the slide presentation.
  • Stand to the right of the screen so the audience’s eyes move from left to right and end on you.
  • After you’ve finished your slides, cut 25% out. If you need to deliver a mass of data, give people a handout later.
  • Remember you are always more important than your slides. People have come to see and hear you – not read your slides.
  • Aim to inform, not overwhelm.

Here are three great resources to help you plan a really effective slide presentation.

A real favourite of mine is Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. It’s packed with tips on making really interesting slides – and it’s a great read.

Seth Godin can always be relied on for an interesting take on making presentations interesting. Check his blog about really bad PowerPoints.

Finally, a great analysis of the awesome presentation skills of the late Steve Jobs. The book is The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, and it’s by Carmine Gallo.

Just promise me one thing: no more slides densely-packed with over-written bullet points. I’ve seen the worst. Now I want to see the best.

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