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PowerPoint Hacks for the Killer Presentation


1. No more than 6 words on a slide.

If you’ve ever been in a presentation, squinting at the board trying to decipher endless text whilst listening to the speaker, you’ll appreciate the need to be succinct. This is a common mistake in presentations. The idea of the slides is to prompt you to say something about each point. Make sure that the slide helps to jog your memory enough to be able to elaborate further. It shouldn’t be your entire script. If the audience are reading slides, they’re not listening to you and you lose your authority; furthermore, any ad-libs you make won’t be heard.

2. Use the Animation Tools…

But don’t overuse them. David Jones over at Frontline who regularly has to deliver pitches makes a strong case for not overdoing it, not each of those six words need to fly onto the page in a different animation with sound effects and fireworks. This will detract from what you are saying and, unless the title happens to be ‘What I’ve Discovered PowerPoint Can Do’, you will want to avoid this. That said, you can use these tools to emphasis certain points or highlight images or statistics you are using in the presentation.

3. Avoid Clipart

However tempted you may be to use clipart to illustrate your point on a page, please don’t do this. Along with the Comic Sans font, it’s a throwback to 1995 and will date your presentation terribly. Photos are perfectly acceptable, even stock lifestyle pictures, as long as they aren’t too trite – more on that later.

4. Embrace the Editing Suite

Sticking a picture in the middle of the slide, or where the pre-programmed format of the slide tells you to put it, is lazy. Instead, take the advice of Marketing professional, Al Bonner, who says to try cropping to make pictures within a presentation far more interesting. Of particular interest is the idea of using the same picture in separate positions on the slide. The best images seem to be the ones that don’t have clutter around them and aren’t boxed in – that is, have a white background.

5. Adhere to the 10/20/30 Rule

Entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki  decreed that an audience will only really recognize the value of up to 10 slides, with 20 minutes of talking over those slides, which should be written in at least a 30 point font. Hence the name, the “10/20/30”rule. It’s a great rule to stick to, or at least use as a guideline. He also suggests the topics of each slide (bearing in mind, this is aimed at venture capitalists, so may need tweaking for your purposes):

  1. Problem
  2. Your solution
  3. Business model
  4. Underlying magic/technology
  5. Marketing and sales
  6. Competition
  7. Team
  8. Projections and milestones
  9. Status and timeline
  10. Summary and call to action

6. Avoid Audio and Video Additions

There are so many options for making the presentation lively, but the more ‘all singing, all dancing’ you make it, the more likelihood there is that something will break. Audio and video elements are invariably the first things to go. Don’t end up in a Michael Bay situation, where you are stuck without your presentation due to a technical fault and end up having to give up completely.

7. Use Charts to Your Advantage

If used sparingly, charts and graphs can visually demonstrate estimated growth or progress, for instance, in an easily digestible format for your audience. Line and pie charts are favoured by those in the know – Seth Godin has three laws about charts – one story, no bar charts and motion. He suggests that you should animate your graphs to bring them to life.

8. If in doubt, cheat

If you’re not creatively-minded and don’t feel confident in producing your own slide designs, get someone else to design them, or use templates (from up-to-date sites). SlideShare have some great free templates. Choose wisely, based on the advice you’ve read here. Clear formats, constrained animations and adhere to the old adage – ‘less is more’!

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