Do you know how to make your presentation slides more interesting and use them effectively in your Powerpoint (or Mac Keynote) presentations? Here are three simple things you can do to improve the presentation itself, and your skills in delivering it.
Done well, slides can add punch to any Powerpoint (or Mac Keynote) presentation. Done poorly, your slides can put people to sleep. You don’t want to be boring, do you?
Know Thy Enemy.
Your presentation has an enemy. It’s not the competition, nervousness or the heckler sitting in the corner, in the dark, in the back. Your enemy has a name.
It is Sameness.
Sameness stands in one spot, strikes one pose, speaks at one pace. Repeatedly. He is armed and extremely dangerous. Sameness has the power to hypnotize your audience and his slides will put them to sleep.
Here’s how to beat your enemy.
Use your voice to vary your tone, volume, inflection and pace. Mix it up when you are speaking. If you’re enthusiastic about an idea or recommendation, you’ll naturally speak faster, using longer sentences and perhaps louder. Let it rip. Then pull out your secret weapon.
Use. The. Pause.
You’ll be amazed at how many eyes (and ears) are locked on you and your every word when you add variety to pace and volume. Sameness hates that.
When it comes to your visuals, Three-of-a-Kind beats any boring hand Sameness might hold. By Three-of-a-Kind, I mean three slides of the same format in a row. If you have three slides in a row with a large visual, then the fourth one needs to be different somehow. Perhaps a smaller visual and a line of text. A chart or graph.
Likewise, if you have three slides of charts or graphs, one right after the other, the fourth one must be different. Three-of-a-Kind is your limit in the game of presentation slides. Don’t let Sameness win.
Be Easy on the Eyes.
The more there is that dances in front of the eye, the more there is to distract it. Perhaps even repel it. That’s why you want to keep your slides clean and simple. One idea per slide, with a stunning or intriguing visual and little-to-no text. Let the words flow from you, not a font family.
If complicated slides repel the audience’s eye, can you guess what tires them?
A white background. That’s right! A white background produces a great deal of bright light that causes the pupil to narrow and expand, narrow and expand. Over and over. It makes me tired just writing that. White backgrounds cause eye strain and fatigue, especially in dimly lit or dark rooms. And when the eyes get tired, so will your audience.
If not white, what then?
Black. Yes, black is the new white! A black background is easy on the eyes, creates a seamless blend to the edges of the screen or monitor and provides plenty of contrast for white text. Which I trust you won’t overdo because you’ve read the preceding paragraphs.
I also trust you not to overdo the transitions between slides, either. Transitions, builds and animations that bounce, sparkle, twist, turn and arrive with fanfare from outer space are not dazzling. They are disruptive.
Ideally, choose two (maybe three) types of transitions. Use one (or two) consistently between slides, and use the other to signal a transition between major sections or speakers. NOTE: If you build a line of text one letter at a time, I will hunt you down and erase your hard drive.
YOU are the No. 1 Visual
Your slides don’t tell your story. You do. That makes YOU the single most important, interesting, influential and powerful visual in the room. Act like it. In a stage play, the most important action, plot point, epiphany or climactic moment takes place center, downstage.
You and your message are that important.
When you set-up the room for your presentation, put your equipment and the screen off to the right, as you look at it from the audience’s point of view. You command the middle. Front and center. Where you belong.
If you can’t arrange the room this way, the screen is most likely permanently centered on a wall. In that case, you stand to the left of the screen, again, as the audience views it. Why? Because we read from left-to-right. (At least those of you reading this post do.) You want your audience’s eyes to track as they normally do—you on the left, screen on the right.
Remember, your slides are not your message. They punctuate and support it. You want the focus on you and your message, not your slides.
When I coached a designer at an architectural firm, he said the same principle applies in his world:
“People should be the focal point of a room, not the furniture, fabrics or fixtures,” he said.
He also shared what has become my favorite definition of good design, any design, including slide presentations:
“Good design is knowing when to stop.”
Questions? Comments? Ugly slide to share? Leave a reply below.