5 PowerPoint ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’

Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 My post 4 ways to make your point with PowerPoint has proven to be so popular, it inspired me to revisit PowerPoint presentations and consider the things that go beyond those simple guidelines.

Do revise or cut slides that don't work. As with movie-making and fashion, a large part of creating a good result is editing. If you have reference material that your boss wants you to include but you don't want to bore 99% of the people in your audience with it, create an Appendix section at the end of your deck and move it there. That way, it's available when you distribute it afterwards, but it won't bog down your talk. Just call out the fact that it's in there and move on.

Don't overwhelm your audience with numbers without providing context for them. What makes those numbers meaningful? The easiest way to cut through the clutter is to create a chart that illustrates your point, and then reinforce it in your talk. You also could tell a story that connects the numbers to the concepts you want to convey. Better yet, do both!

Do allow your audience to interact with you. Take advantage of the opportunity to have a two-way discussion. Otherwise, you could simply record a webcast and send out a link. Note that this does not mean you lose control of the presentation. Keep an eye on time and how shifty your audience gets during any side trips, and don't allow one or two people to pull you away from the true purpose of your talk. Offer to take any issues you don't have a quick answer for or that lead to unproductive sidetracking "off line" for follow-up after the talk. And then follow through.

Don't just read what's on the screen. If everything you have to say is on your slides, then you can print them, hand them out, and free your audience's time. The slides should be a jumping off point to your engaging talk. Spend some time creating speaker's notes. From time to time when what you want to convey doesn't require additional information, offer slides that just state the topic or have a generic (not distracting) illustration while you just talk. That way, the audience's attention moves to you and not what's on the screen.

Do rehearse and time your presentation before you give it. PowerPoint 2007 contains a handy timer if you have a second monitor and activate Presenter View. This can help you practice and keep track of your time during the live event as well.

To turn on Presenter View, Control-Shift-click the tiny Slide Show icon on the bottom right side of the status bar to open the Set Up Show options. Check Show Presenter View and click OK. Now when you launch a slide show, the presentation will appear on the screen you designated in the options, and the other screen will display the timer, notes and slide selector that allows you to easily jump ahead or back.


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