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Best Practice

PowerPoint Best Practices

Tips and tricks for more effective online presentations.

Use BOTH text and visuals.

Did you know that if your PowerPoint show is mostly text, you might not be effectively communicating with a large portion of your audience? Scientific research has shown that some people are more verbal/text-oriented (left brain thinkers) and some people are more visually-oriented (right-brain thinkers). Chances are, your audience will be composed of a mix of both types. To effectively get your message across everybody in your audience, you need to make sure your slides have both text and visuals. Visuals can include photographs, diagrams, charts, and illustrations.

Use the "seven by seven" rule.

Your slides should have no more than seven lines of text which each line having no more than seven words. This keeps your word slides visually clean and appealing. More importantly, it keeps the audience's attention focused on YOU, not on the slide. If there is a novel up there on the screen, people will be reading it, rather than listening to you. The words on your slides should be talking points only. If you find yourself writing lengthy word slides, move the text down to speaker's notes, and just boil the slides down to the essential points.

Always provide a handout.

A handout has many benefits. First, by putting your information on paper, you are putting it "record," which greatly adds to your credibility. Secondly, a handout allows your audience to concentrate on your presentation, rather than note-taking. Lastly, a handout gives you the opportunity to provide more detailed information and keep your PowerPoint presentation uncluttered and direct.

To get your audience involved, ask good questions.

It's a good idea to plan to ask your audience a challenging question sometime during your presentation. Stop the show and ask for a response. When someone calls out an answer, be sure you repeat it for everyone's benefit. Try to get more than one response. This really wakes up an audience and gets them more focused on your presentation.

Remember to pause.

Don't speed-talk through your presentation. If you have too much material for the time you have allotted to speak, it is a better plan to reduce your content by shifting some of it to a handout. Most importantly, pause after you say a new concept or a word that is not part of common vocabulary. This gives your audience time to absorb it and they will be prepared for what you are going to say next. Pause for 5-7 seconds after you ask a question.

PowerPoint Presentations Best Practices

  • Consistent use of background, logo, fonts and colors. Consistency is a best practice of good PowerPoint presentations.
  • Combine text with visuals. An image should support the main message of the slide. Also, your slides should have short, powerful headlines that summarize the information on the slide. Make concepts come alive with strong visualization and language that relates to the audience's interest.
  • Present data in as uncluttered a way as possible. Use upward and downward arrows to further communicate the message. Make labels clear and easy to read. Avoid any visual element, or "chart junk," that does not directly communicate your message.
  • List the source. This is very important, because data cited without a source allows the audience to challenge its credibility. It is a best practice to always cite the source of your information, when possible.

More reading

Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes

Andy Goodman - free PDF download

Presentation Zen

Garr Reynolds  - Book - Video of a talk at Google

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