Having worked in the corporate world, I’ve built a lot of experience in producing effective presentations. Use my top tips for designing a Powerpoint presentation and yours will go a whole lot smoother.
1. Start on a high, end on a high
Peoples’ attention levels naturally rise and fall. Being aware of this will help you to plan how you can best generate interest at the most crucial moments of your Powerpoint presentation.
The start should set the scene, and get people engaged in what they are about to hear. The middle should add detail, and the end should allow people to think for themselves about what you’ve just presented could mean for the future. The longer you can keep people thinking about what you’ve just presented, the more likely your presentation is to stick in their minds in the long term.
2. Break. It. Down.
People will read what’s on screen as soon as it appears. If you have several points on a slide, by the time you’ve reached the second one, they will probably have finished reading the last.
Instead, keep the points coming one by one.
You could keep your presentation clean and minimal by splitting key points over separate slides, with only a few words on each.
Alternatively, you can set bullet points to appear one by one by using Powerpoint’s animation function, and setting each bullet to appear ‘on click’ so the flow is under your control.
3. Think outside the screen
A common mistake with Powerpoint is to try and get all the detail people need to know from your presentation onto the slides themselves.
Not only does this leave you with a cluttered, ugly presentation; it’s not effective for presenting. People will naturally read what’s on screen, and what you’re saying will be lost.
If you have detail that people need to take away from your meeting, then supply it on handouts. Add a ‘handouts will be provided’ slide into your presentation at the start, to let people know that you will be providing these at the end. This will stop people feeling the need to take notes, and help them to concentrate.
4. Don’t worry about the number of slides
When producing Powerpoint presentations for others, I’m often told to ‘keep it to <<insert number>> slides’. This is completely arbitrary – and it’s on screen, so we’re not even saving paper!
Forgetting about the number of slides will free up the options when it comes to designing the most effective Powerpoint. For example, it might be best to keep each slide to single, bold statements that you can click through quickly. This can hold interest better than a smaller number of busy slides with lots of text.
If you are briefing a designer on a Powerpoint you need producing, let them know how much time you have to present it instead of the number of slides you want. They should be able to advise you on the best way to get your point across in the time you have.
5. Put pen to paper
Once you’ve got your story arc, you’ll need to think about what you’re presenting, and in what order.
Start by writing up Post-its of the top level themes, and arrange them in the order that suits your story arc. Once you’ve got these, draft slide content or keywords on new Post-its, and arrange these as required under the headings. You can rearrange them until you’re happy with the flow. This then gives you the foundations you need to get started on your Powerpoint.
6. Remember to introduce yourself
It seems basic, but people often forget to introduce themselves at the start of a presentation – and to leave their contact details at the end.
As well as name, number and e-mail address, it is now increasingly relevant to include your social media links. In a business setting, this could be your LinkedIn or Twitter profile.
If you have a long URL to share, linking to a specific project or resource for example, there’s no point pasting it ‘as is’ on screen. No-one will write it down correctly. Instead, use a website such as tinyurl.com to shorten your link to something more manageable that can be noted down or memorised.
7. Brand guidelines are important – but they are still guidelines
To maintain a credible, professional appearance, it is essential to pay attention to the look and feel of your presentation. Your organisation’s brand guidelines are an ideal starting point for this.
Having said that, creating an on-brand presentation is much more than simply pasting a company logo on every slide, or using specific colours. Just as important is the tone of voice of your presentation, the vocabulary you employ, and even how you present yourself. Together all these elements should help you to stay on-brand.
Good brand guidelines allow for flexibility, so the brand is able to support the key message you are trying to convey, rather than hinder it. If you have access to a professional designer, they will be able to help you stay on-brand whilst getting your point across effectively.
8. Icons are your friend
Get a point across quickly and easily with icons – just don’t use Powerpoint’s own ugly clipart. There are numerous great resources for icons on the internet, and you can download them with a transparent background so they fit in perfectly with your presentation design.
To use an icon with a transparent background, you will need to download it as a GIF or PNG file. JPEG files cannot incorporate transparent areas.
Flaticons.net is my favourite, as it has lots of business and tech related icons which are flexible to use in a range of presentations.
9. Get the size right
Spent all this time getting your Powerpoint right, only to find that it’s got big black bars along the sides when you present it on the big screen?
If you’re planning to send your presentation on, or use it on a range of different devices, this isn’t always avoidable. However, if you’ve got a key meeting to present at, it pays to find out what screen you are using and design your presentation accordingly. That way you know that you’re making the most of the screen space you have at your disposal. Custom Powerpoint sizes can be determined under File > Page Setup.
10. Test, test and test again
Wherever possible, make sure to test your Powerpoint on the computer you will be using before your presentation.
Things you might want to check are:
- do the fonts display correctly? If the presentation computer is missing the fonts you used when designing it, then it won’t. You can either install the fonts on the new computer, or change the fonts. Or even better…
- can you bring your own laptop? If so, it’s much safer as the fonts you use will come with you. But if so, do you have the right cables to connect it to the screen/projector?
- do you need an internet connection, for example to play a Youtube video? If so, test it!
- if you have embedded sound or music, will it play on the equipment you’ve got?
- your projector – do you know how to make it work? They are notoriously flaky.
Got all these basics right? Then take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy your presentation!
If you need more help in producing an on-brand, professional Powerpoint presentation, just get in touch.