How to Create an Effective PowerPoint Presentation
Introduction to PowerPoint
PowerPoint has become the darling of meetings. Go to a conference, business meeting, even a board meeting (of any company, organization or government agency) and you are bound to see a PowerPoint presentation. For those two people out there somewhere in the world who have never heard of PowerPoint, it is a software program created by Microsoft, that allows you to create 'slides' in a slideshow format to present on your computer and/or a large screen via a projector hooked up to your computer. It's options are innumerable.
Have you ever wondered why and how PowerPoint took over meetings? Of course the most obvious is the visual impact PowerPoint makes on your audience. It may also be its resemblance to "Show and Tell" in school, but on steroids! PowerPoint is flexible, easy for you to customize to your own tastes and needs, can be used to engage your audience....need I go on?
So now that we've established what a wonderfully creative and enchanting piece of software PowerPoint is, what is the best way to use it? Before writing about the things you SHOULD do in PowerPoint, I'd like to about the things you SHOULDN'T. Let's take a look at the mistakes you can make.
What NOT to do in a PowerPoint Presentation
Yes, there are things you shouldn't do in a PowerPoint Presentation. Think a minute....have you ever been at a Presentation when the presenter stands next to the screen and reads each point you see on each slide? Really? Is that an insult to the audience- you can't read it yourself - or is it that the presenter doesn't know what he's talking about and has to read the information? That my friends, is the very first thing you must NEVER do with PowerPoint....read your slides to your audience. It is boring, demeaning and just a waste of time.
Here are a few other things you should avoid in your PowerPoint Presentation:
- Don't add too much text to a slide.
- Avoid hard to read text on your slide
- Don't use crazy, distracting colors
- Don't use poorly contrasting backgrounds
- Don't overdo the sound effects
- Don't use too many visual effects on one slide
- Don't use PowerPoint as a crutch
- Don't use photos or graphics that have nothing to do with your presentation
- Don't use too many slides
What to DO in an Effective PowerPoint Presentation
The main reason, or at least it should be the main reason, for using a PowerPoint Presentation is that you want to grab your audience's attention. You want them glued to the screen and hanging on your every word...well, maybe that's a little too much to ask for, but you do want to keep them interested in what you have to say.
- First, before even starting to work in PowerPoint, think out your presentation...draw up an outline...write some notes on what you want to say and how you want to say it
- Make sure what you want to say is stated clearly and your audience can understand the points you are trying to make
- Now start using PowerPoint and formatting your presentation
- Use the space on your slides to your advantage, just like you do on the printed page...don't be afraid of 'white space'
- Use graphics where they apply. Visuals are always interesting
- You can insert audio and/or video into your slides, but do so sparingly, make them count
- When you use graphics, use them for emphasis, make sure there's a reason for that graphic appearing on your slide
- Keep your slide transitions consistent...one slide swiping, one slide fading, one slide twirling....see what I mean? Its better to pick a transition and stick with it.
- If you watched the video (before this) you will have seen that using bullets for key points in your presentation is a good idea....use them to make ideas stand out, not to overrun a slide
- Use the animations available, but use them sparingly
- Use bullet points to help avoid writing whole paragraphs to make a point
- Know how to navigate in PowePoint and how to get from slide to slide and back again if you need to
- Be sure to save your presentation as you work, after every couple of slides
PowerPoint comes with some built-in color schemes. You can make your own, but why not choose something the professionals have already designed? The text, background and sometimes even a design or motif are all laid out. You can, however, choose your own colors and to help you there, Microsoft suggests the following color combinations for text and background; green on purple, violet on yellow, white on black or blue-green on red. However, it has been found that white or yellow text can be harsh on the eyes and I'm not so sure violet on yellow is something I'd want to use.
Keep your presentation simple but not simplistic...in other words don't overcrowd it with dodads and fancy footwork but make sure your message is clear. Remember pictures are worth a thousand words...don't be afraid to use them! As for bullet points, PowerPoint expert Cliff Atkinson, author of Beyond Bullet Points says, "When you overload your audience, you shut down the dialogue that's an important part of decision-making."
Practice your presentation, do a run through before the day of the actual presentation to be sure the timings are right and everything is just the way you want it. (Check your equipment and make sure that's working too.) Your main point is what will the audience get out of this presentation? Will they learn what you want them to learn?
Free Presentation Software
- Open Office Impress - part of OpenOffice.org
- Slide Rocket is an online presentation software...the Lite version is free
- Brain Shark is also on online presentation software....the basic version is free at myBrainShark
- AdobeAcrobat.com Presentations - an account to use this software is free but you must have Flash 10 to use it
Make PowerPoint work for you....let your slideshow entertain and teach your audience. Use graphics and animations in small doses, use your main point as the center of the slide, and engage your audience. Most importantly, know your subject and practice, practice, practice.
I would like to leave you with some additional information. While Microsoft PowerPoint is THE presentation software, know that it is not the only presentation software. If you are on a restricted budget there is free presentation software to be had. As a matter of fact, the slides I used here were prepared in OpenOffice.org, a free presentation software. Search around and find what's best for you. Always be careful the 'free' software you are about to download is actually free and is from a reputable source.