Welcome to the first post in a series of articles on PowerPoint presentation design strategies. I was going to call this series “PowerPointers” but that name brings to mind images of a wild gang of needlepoint enthusiasts leaning against lampposts wearing meticulously embroidered leather jackets, twirling needlepoint frames around their fingers as they protect their turf… not exactly my target audience. Perhaps a more brilliant title for this series will arise as I move forward. We shall see. But as this is not a series of articles on the coining of clever monikers, I do hope that you will forgive the lack of creativity in the heading…
So what’s the point??
This series will introduce methods I’ve used to make exciting, engaging PowerPoint presentations. I’ll be using PowerPoint 2010 for these posts, and for advanced PowerPoint creation, I do recommend using PowerPoint 2010 over PowerPoint 2007. I’ve found that PPT 2010 contains several new functions which are indispensable. This series isn’t about jazzing up your PowerPoint presentation with frivolous bells and whistles to your PowerPoint presentation. It’s about using WISE DESIGN and ADDING VALUE. While bells, whistles, animations, LOLcats, and video clips can be amusing, they are useless if they don’t add some sort of value to the presentation.
Wise design basically means developing and implementing an economic design strategy. In a wisely designed presentation, all elements serve a purpose. Every word and image is in place for a reason. Unnecessary information, images, and animations should be stripped away, leaving the presentation with only what NEEDS to be there.
But what if I NEED all those words on the slide? The simple fact is, you don’t NEED them. If you’re presenting in front of a live audience, your discussion will expand upon the information covered on the slides as you present. If the slides are overloaded with text, images, and/or animations, the audience will pay more attention to what’s on the screen than to what’s being said, practically eliminating the need for a speaker! If you’re presenting online or recording a voice-over narration, keeping your audience tuned in to the sound of your voice is even more difficult, and if your PowerPoint slides are too busy, the audience will tune you out as they read your slides.
But what if I want to hand out printed copies of my presentation? Won’t they need all that text? If you’d like to provide handouts of your presentation, use the Notes feature of PowerPoint to add all the text you had originally intended to include on your slides and print out the Notes pages so that your audience can walk away with any extra information you may have wanted to provide that wasn’t in the actual slides. Better yet, if you’re providing handouts, don’t give them a copy of the PowerPoint at all! Give them a single-page handout that ADDS VALUE but doesn’t reproduce the entire presentation. Typically, there is no legitimate need to provide a slide-by-slide hard copy of your presentation. You can always make your presentation available on the web so that interested parties may download and review it on their own.
One last thing about hard copies. If you are providing them, try not to distribute them until AFTER you’ve completed your presentation. Handouts can be a distraction, and you want your audience to be focused on YOU, not on the papers in their hands.
In order to design better PowerPoint presentations, we must first understand the role of PowerPoint. Your performance as a presenter/teacher/facilitator should be the primary focus of the audience. The audience should be engaged, excited, and eager to learn about your topic. The PowerPoint presentation should not be your presentation, it should add value to your presentation. Quite often, presenters will use PowerPoint as a crutch rather than a tool and instead of truly presenting on the topic, the presenter merely reads to the audience. If people are paying to take a class or attend a seminar, they typically want something more exciting than a presenter reading slides.
The remaining posts in this series will discuss ways in which you can add value to your PowerPoint presentation, but perpetually reinforce the fact that the presentation itself should be clean and well-designed from the outset.
If you’re reading this and would like to contribute any ideas or have any requests for future PowerPoint articles, let me know…
As always, any comments, questions, concerns or (gentle) criticisms are welcome.