June 02, 2017

Creating More Effective PowerPoint Presentations

by Erin Johnson

The PowerPoint presentation has been a mainstay of business communications for nearly as long as any of us may remember…for better, and for worse.

At their best, they can be powerful visual aids that help an audience better understand a given subject in an engaging presentation. But on the other end of the spectrum, they can be confusing, irritating, and can distract from what the audience is meant to be taking away.

We’ve all seen them. Slides with too many words. Cluttered and perplexing visuals. Overall presentations that are seemingly endless.

But still, PowerPoints can be versatile tools that help us communicate complex subjects to important audiences. And with the functionality of the program, it’s easy for just about anyone to put something respectable together. It doesn’t take a design degree—just adherence to a few straightforward rules and guidelines that can help any presentation remain effective instead of… well, you’ve seen it.

Simplicity is the Best Policy.
Public speaking expert Garr Reynolds notes in his tips for PowerPoint presentations—keep it simple. More than anything, this should be your guiding principle for any PowerPoint creation.

This is important for a few reasons, first from the creative standpoint. PowerPoint, as mentioned, is a powerful program that can do a lot, and temptation can get the better of us when it comes to those capabilities. Why not a flashy transition animation? Why not draw a few shapes on the slide? Why not a few ClipArt images? Because more often than not, these things are not strengthening your message.
Less (Text) is More.
In any given presentation, a given slide should serve as a billboard for the message you’re trying to communicate. And it definitely shouldn’t be your script for the presentation itself. 

It’s not uncommon that a presenter will end up leaning on their presentation as a crutch for what they want to say. So if you need something to help guide you through the speaking portion, print out some talking points or a script—don’t use your slides. Let those serve as key takeaways in the form of short, impactful and digestible words and phrases.
Make Sure It’s Readable.
This point is closely related to the last, but it’s about more than just the words you’re putting on your slide. Common in PowerPoint slides can be charts, graphs, or images—and it’s important to make sure these things are intelligible to your audience. For example: make sure the X and Y axes on a chart are labeled in font large enough for an audience to read them.
Keep it As Short and Impactful as You Can.
No one wants to sit through an endless presentation of slides. Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule for PowerPoint presentations has been held up as a guiding example for years, and it’s still effective: “It’s quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.”

As a venture capitalist, Kawasaki is of course referring to business presentations he hears on a regular basis, but it is still a good rule to keep in the back of your mind. Even if you have a much longer time allotted, a shorter presentation will be far more effective and leaves plenty of time for technological hiccups as well as Q&A.

Questions or comments? Contact me directly at Erin.Johnson@Quanex.com.

For more information about Quanex visit www.quanex.com
Posted: June 02, 2017 by Erin Johnson Filed under: communication, strategies, visual