Accompanying a presentation with slides is a great opportunity to help convey your message in an entertaining and memorable way. It’s a shame that so many meetings and lectures are paired with depressingly awful slide decks that detract from the oral information rather than complementing it. You’ve no doubt seen them – presentations that make you think of malfunctioning elementary school filmstrips or cliché versions of boring meetings in bad TV shows. Or worse yet, foreign films with illegible subtitles. You can’t understand a thing!
You certainly want to prevent that outcome, so what are the secrets to avoid boring or confusing your audience? There’s no formal set of rules, but there are definitely strategies you can adopt to help ensure your presentation is interesting, memorable and effective. Next time you have to make a presentation that involves a slide deck, follow these guidelines to create a powerful positive impression that resonates with your audience.
- Start with solid content. Even though your task may be clearly a slide-focused project, develop a complete presentation before you even begin thinking about slides. What are the main points you want to communicate? What’s your evidence? What are the complications and takeaways? Only after you’ve got these in place should you begin to think about the slides that you’ll use to bolster the concepts you’re sharing.
- Slides should be the strong, silent type. Draft an outline that could make a great article or research paper, but instead of writing it, you’ll be designing slides that support and enhance what you’re saying. They should be a visual reminder that helps demonstrate and clarify your information, not the backbone of your presentation. The goal is to have very few words on each slide, but every word should be loaded with meaning.
- Strive for simplicity. PowerPoint and the other slide making programs are chock full of awesome effects. Don’t use them. The fancy transitions and blinky lights are fun! (for third graders). For more sophisticated users, they only distract from what should be the most interesting thing happening in the room: the information you’re sharing. Create a powerful impact with your message, not special effects.
- Improve what doesn’t awe. So you have a line graph from the firm that illustrates an important trend, but it’s sort of ugly and hard to interpret. Don’t feel you have to use the graph even if you need the information. In most cases it only takes a minute to recreate the simple business charts and graphs you need in PowerPoint or the application you’re using. If you redraft the information, you may be able to easily improve the visibility, clarity and good looks of key data.
- Develop a visual theme. Even the simplest slides have graphic components. Pick a few elements like borders, colors and fonts and then apply them as appropriate to every slide in the deck. Consistency will help your presentation appear professional and well put together. You can also help the audience follow what’s happening by using a recognizable format for main points, another for supporting evidence and a third for transitions, or some other simple division of style that helps clarify the flow of your information.
- Think in metaphor. Need some images to help drive home your point? This is a great time to flex your literary muscle. Photos with a clear interpretation can help viewers relate to and remember your presentation, and break up the data-driven slides. From natural phenomena to human behavior or emotions, there’s sure to be a great (free) photo available that will perfectly match your more business-focused or numbers-based point. Again, keep it simple, but feel free to be dramatic.
With careful planning and these tips to guide you, your next presentation won’t be a yawner in the least. It’ll be art! Or at least, artfully handled. Do you have other suggestions to share? We’d love to hear your slide secrets.