Digital:

5 Things to Avoid when Creating a PowerPoint Presentation

Gemma Drakett-Cain
  • Digital Editorial Assistant
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Giving an effective PowerPoint presentation is an art. We’ve all sat through a dreadful presentation that we couldn’t wait to escape from. PowerPoint is however an instrumental presentation tool that allows you to captivate your audience and showcase your ideas. To help you maximise this tool we’ve noted down a few things to avoid when creating a presentation…

1. Not preparing enough

Write a script, a little planning goes a long way.
The purpose of your slides is to illustrate and expand on what you are going to say to your audience. You should know what you intend to say and then decide how you are going to visualise it. Unless you are an expert at improvising, make sure you write out, or at least outline your presentation before trying to put together slides. Keep in mind good storytelling conventions when writing your script. Give it a beginning, middle, and end and have a clear arc that builds towards some sort of climax – make your audience appreciate each slide, but also remain eager to find out what’s next, and where possible, always leave them wanting more.

2. Reading slides verbatim

Reading your slides word-for-word will bore the audience, and makes you seem rigid instead of dynamic.
Remember that PowerPoint slides don’t need to contain every little bit of information you’re discussing. Use them as little attention-grabbers so your audience understands the current topic, but wants to hear you explain more. If you have trouble remembering what you want to say, use the notes section of each PowerPoint slide. Then when you display the slideshow using presenter mode, your monitor will display a snapshot of the current and next slide, along with any notes you’ve jotted for that slide. Stopping to turn around and look at your slides, or reading them aloud, will not effectively bring your message to the audience. Anyone in the audience could stand up and read the slide, but you should know the material.

3. Too much content

Perhaps the biggest mistake people make in presentations is overloading every slide with text.
This detracts from your talk for many reasons; People are naturally inclined to read everything on the screen. If it takes them half a minute to digest everything, they aren’t listening to you during that time. According to presentation guru Paul Vorreiter of ReflectiveSpark.com, your audience should need no more than 3 seconds to read and understand each slide. If they’re busy reading the slide, they’re not paying attention to what you’re saying!

Don’t be afraid to use space to add emphasis to what’s present on slide, or break a particularly meaty section into two slides. When in doubt, remember that people are either going to pay attention to your slides, or pay attention to you. If you tend towards wordiness, stick to bullet points and short phrases instead of sentences. As a rule of thumb, try to limit yourself to five bullet points per slide, with no more than five words per bullet point.

4. Colour Palette / Imagery

Audiences don’t like unusual colour combinations.
Dark text on a light background works well and it’s best to keep the colour scheme consistent; keep your colour palette to three or four colours. Get creative with your imagery, but only if it makes sense in the context of the slide it’s living on, nothing is worse than cheesy graphics! Check out, Stock Free Images for royalty-free images you can use in your presentation.

5. Small Fonts / Hard to read Fonts

The same goes for fonts. You should choose a font that’s easy to read and not too small.
Unless you have extensive experience in typography, shy away from using decorative fonts downloaded from the internet. Not only does this present readability issues, but also potential compatibility issues in the event the presentation needs to be sent somewhere besides your computer. Typically, sans-serif fonts like Arial or Helvetica work best for digital projects and are considered ‘browser safe fonts.’

If you’re not confident with typography try to stick to one font throughout the entire presentation. Few colours and fonts make for solid presentations because they mean consistency. It’s childish to cram as many pretty fonts and colours onto one slide as you can. It looks messy, and while Georgia font isn’t too exciting, people would prefer to read your text instead of admiring how fancy it looks.

Giving a great presentation can be extremely rewarding. Keeping these simple tips in mind and using the information you learn each time can help improve your future presentations. With style, design and a strong presentation flow under your belt, you can do a lot more with PowerPoint than you think!

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