We have all sat through presentations which have been dire – ‘death by PowerPoint’. At PDI, we print copies of slides and have seen the good, the bad and the very ugly. Here we give some ideas, which we have garnered from experience and from the latest top thinkers in the fields of sales and neuroscience.
1. Don't Have Your Slides Packed With Wording.
According to leading neuroscientist Dr Jared Cooney Horwath of the University of Melbourne, it is not possible to listen and read at the same time. Reading being an act of listening to you inner voice. Even if we think we can do both we are actually are jumping from one task to another, without full concentration on either task.
If you ask your audience to read large amounts of text on a slide they will not listen to anything you have to say. Keep information on your slide brief. Try just headlines which will remind you to talk about a specific subject. You can then include handouts with all the detailed notes already printed on there.
If you absolutely must have writing, such as a quote, read it all out and then expand, or give your class/team time to read what you have written.
2. Images are Better than Words
Again according to Dr Horwath again – neuroscience backs up the idea that a picture pints a thousand words leading to increased understanding and retention. As he states:
"It’s not just recall that’s important, but recognition. Images make concepts instantaneously digestible. For example the word ‘cat’ is interpreted in many different ways in people’s minds. Provide a picture and the audience is literally on the same page. It provides the context and the detail. Again it’s less mentally taxing."
So, slides with relevant images are far more effective than streams of bullet points. Images will also keep your audience engaged a little more, as images don't blur together the way some text does. Even if you don't require images, see if you can find something that will pop and stand out - just to keep their interest levels as high as possible.
3. Text and Colours
Colour is more engaging and interesting – but interestingly it has been shown that some colours work better than others and most importantly it is the contrast that creates the impact.
Most tests agree that white text on black background works much better when projecting a slide on screen. But watch the printed version of the slides because large areas of block colour or black are prone to smudge and streaks.
Choose appropriate colours too. Make sure your blend of colours doesn't make you feel queasy just by looking at it. If you're doing a presentation on branding for example, it would be a great idea to use the brand colours as a base theme. Colour is going to make your presentation pop and stand out a lot more than your normal black on white.
Also, be careful with which fonts you are using. You might think it's pretty neat to have a flowing fancy font, but is it clear for your audience? Will the font work well when being projected onto the wall? This last point of course is also something to keep in mind when choosing font size. Just because you can read it on the screen in front of you does not mean that the projection is going to be clear.
4. Keep it Simple
An example of one of the best PowerPoint presentations comes from king marketer and salesperson Seth Godwin which demonstrates the need to:
- Keep it relevant to your audience
- Keep the concepts simple
- Keep a single idea to each slide
- Give a roadmap to your presentation.
Have a look yourself at:
Don't have your presentation go off on wild tangents and make sure any stories/deviations you do take are relevant and brief. By talking about too much, you are either going to have an endless presentation or spread yourself too thin and barely cover anything in enough detail.
5. Printing Your Slides
Most top presenters agree that printed copies are great but do not give them out before the presentation. Telling your audience they will have printed copies of the slides at the end, lets them relax from taking notes and gives the opportunity to listen. But giving the presentation out before you start may lead to them reading the handout and not listening at all.
Format for printing varies – it does not have to be a single slide per page but can be 4 or 6 to a page or can be printed with space for notes – talk to your printer about what can be achieved.
Also, remember that if you are adding custom animations to images and texts, remember that paper doesn't exactly work like that, so if you have one slide that has text disappear and then appear on top of that (without changing slide), then you are going to have two layers of text on top of one another and they will be unreadable.