Monday, March 24, 2008

Creating a PowerPoint: The ABC's

“If anything can go wrong, it will.”—Murphy's Law

Want to use PowerPoint when you speak? Keep in mind that any mechanical device has the potential to go haywire—distracting you and your audience. Avoid planning your talk around your PowerPoint presentation. When creating your PowerPoint, use the following tips to add value to your speech.

Anecdotes/Acronyms: Don’t overload your audience with data dump—facts, bullets or information. Tell engaging, relevant stories to support each point. List and spell out all acronyms on the last slide.

Bullets: Use no more than four or five bullets per slide.

Contrast: Use high contrast text and graphics. The more contrast between the background and type, the more your words pop, for example dark or black lettering stands out against a light background. Cool colors work best for backgrounds. Warm colors are best for text.

Design: Avoid clutter. Leave white space around text and graphics.

Editing: Check grammar and spelling.

Font: The room and size of the audience may vary. Legibility is important. Use Arial, Gill Sans, Universal, or Times New Roman. Use 32-50 points for title slides, 24-32 points for the title, 20-32 points for the heading and bulleted lists, and 18-point for the text. No one past the first few rows can read type smaller than 18 points. Avoid capitalizing words, it reduces readability and comprehension.

Graphs/Graphics: Complex graphs or graphics are difficult to see in the back row. Divide information over several slides. Limit pie charts to 4-6 slices. Limit vertical bar charts to 4-8 contrasting bars. Limit horizontal bar charts to four bars.

Handout: Create a takeaway handout providing detailed facts, graphs and acronyms. For note compulsive takers, print out your PowerPoint presentation.

Italicized Fonts: Don’t use. They are hard to read.

Join: Connect the PowerPoint with your talk. However, make sure your talk can stand alone without the PowerPoint.

Kiss: Keep it simple stupid does not mean stupid. Nothing is as easy as it looks. Constructing a well-presented talk and PowerPoint requires planning and work.

Lines: Limit text to six lines or less.

Metaphors: Use a powerful word picture that your audience will remember.

Needs: What are your audience’s felt needs? What three points do you want your audience to remember? Keep main points logical, simple and clear.

Organization: Begin with a summary slide stating your three main points.

Pictures: Use pictures to illustrate your point. The best slides have no text. Include high-resolution stock photos or your own digital pictures to help the audience emotionally connect to your story. Don’t use cartoonish clip art.

Quotations: Keep quotes short.

Red Type: Never use it. Red type is illegible when projected.

Simplicity: Eliminate every nonessential phrase, word or element.

Text: Not artistic? Use one number, one percentage or one memorable, key word that is ten characters or less. Make it large—as in HUGE text that takes up the entire slide.

Verify: Check your facts to make sure they are accurate. Include the source.

Wordiness: Use key words and phrases only. Limit words to six to eight words per line.

X: Cross out or delete extraneous or detailed information. Use key ideas on each slide. Be clear and concise. Too much text lessens legibility.

Yadda-Yadda: PowerPoint is not a teleprompter. Don’t read the PowerPoint slide word for word. Spend 45 seconds to 5 minutes per slide to reinforce your points. Plan your talk to correspond with—not repeat—the information on the slides.

Zombie Proofing: The mind only tolerates what the derrière can bear.

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