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5 Tips for Creating a Better PowerPoint Presentation

Sitting through a poorly written and presented PowerPoint presentation is nothing to relish. It's about as exciting as watching paint dry or having the neighbors stop by armed with over 200 holiday snaps. A lot of PowerPoint authors are pleased with their creations, but they’re often the only ones who are.

People new to creating PowerPoint slideshows fall into the familiar traps. With so many bells and whistles to choose from, it's easy to overuse animations and graphics. In fact, that's exactly what most people do. They write their presentation in such a way that it entertains them yet confuses or bores their audience. The solution, therefore, is to be mindful of that 1960s acronym, 'KISS', or 'Keep It Simple, Stupid.'

Identify Problems, Apply Solutions

To every problem there is a solution. PowerPoint presentations have plenty of problems and therefore solutions. But before anyone can fix their issues, they first have to identify what those issues are.

The five most common PowerPoint problems include:

  1. The presentation lacks an introduction or has one that doesn't "introduce " the show clearly;
  2. The presentation is unnecessarily long;
  3. The body (main presentation) is too busy and distracting;
  4. Wrong font, font sizes and line spacing negatively affect readability;
  5. Missing summary at the end.

Just by correcting the issues from the quick list above, anyone can improve their PowerPoint presentation in a dramatic way. Let's look at the solution to each of these problems in turn:

#1 - A Missing or Poor Introduction

Without an introduction or a proper opening, the viewers have no clear idea of what the presentation is about or what they can expect going forward. Fall short on this and the audience loses interest before the presentation even begins.

Solution: Ask the question: What will the audience learn? Then use that to base your intro. Include a short, simple but descriptive opening. Use lists to outline the presentation. Don't use big words when little ones will do. Arrange all points in a logical and methodical format. At the end of the introduction slide(s) the audience should have a good idea of what to expect.

#2 - PowerPoint Presentation Is Too Long

The idea behind a PowerPoint presentation is to present it. Too much text means the audience have to read the slides when they should in fact be viewing them. Too much text also means too much talking from the presenter. This approach is certain to bore the audience from the outset.

Solution: Keep it short, to the point, and weed out the clutter (unnecessary text, graphics, etc.).

#3 - The Body Is Too Busy and Distracting

It's very easy to spot a failing slide show. The audience begins to fidget, move their eyes away from the screen or start to chat among themselves.

Solution: Simplicity and coherence are the key. All slides should have a clean layout wherever possible (uncluttered, well-spaced). One way to check if a slide has too much clutter is to view it from a distance (about 2m away). Present the concepts and reduce the reading. It's important to review and rewrite slides - if necessary - with rested eyes. There is almost always room for improvements on the first draft. Keep the presentation simple (not to be confused with trivial).

#4 - Wrong Font, Font Sizes and Line Spacing

Get this wrong and the show is over. The wrong type of fonts, or font sizes, bad colors and too much text, etc., will result in a failed presentation.

Solution: Don't try to be flash and mix colors. Avoid using too many font styles or wrong styles (avoid serif fonts). Have only six lines per slide at most. Keep to seven words or less per line. This is the 6x7 rule.

#5 - The Missing Summary

When there is no summary, it's easy for the audience to leave without remembering much about the presentation. An effective recap helps to reinforce what everyone has just watched.

Solution: Recap the show's highlights. The summary should be just that - a brief account of all the main points. A PowerPoint presentation without a good summary is like a book without an end.

Anyone who identifies with these common problems and applies the solutions will get to write much better PowerPoint presentations - guaranteed.