Over the years, I've witnessed hundreds of Microsoft PowerPoint presentations given by many different people. Some presentations were project debriefs, some were training sessions, whilst others were information seminars. And this list of applications is only the tip of the iceberg of the many purposes for which I have seen PowerPoint used. With such versatility, it's no wonder PowerPoint is the presentation software of choice for most.
I'm pleased to report that with all of this first hand experience under my belt, I am ready to distill for you the 10 leading practices used to make a presentation unforgettable. Here is how you can make your next presentation just that little bit more memorable.
Use 10 point font liberally on all of your slides
This neat little trick gives you a key advantage over your competitors. It forces people to occupy the seats nearest you, up close so that they can get every subtle nuance of your presentation. And if the presentation is not relevant to them, you may as well make the best use of their time by testing their vision whilst they are there.
Don't tell your audience where you are taking them
Make sure that you launch straight into your presentation. Summarizing first what you will be talking about and what participants will get out of your session is just a big time waster. Furthermore, there is nothing better to generate interest in your talk than shrouding the purpose of your session in mystery.
Read every word on every one of your slides
This trick demonstrates unmistakably that you know your subject inside out. Remember also, not everyone can read as well as you, so helping the linguistically challenged will score you extra brownie points.
Display your slides throughout the entire presentation
Fiddling around with the "B" key to blank the slides when you think you don't need them only risks you hitting the wrong key and losing your slides. And then how silly will you look. Most importantly, always having the slides showing emphasizes the preeminent importance of the slides over and above the other trifling activities, such as demonstrations, exercises, answering questions, and so on.
Cram as much information on each slide as possible
People are hungry for information and they expect you to deliver as much as possible in the time available. Every square millimeter of space, therefore, is precious. So don't waste it by not filling it with text or a graphic or anything that you can get your hands on.
Display as many slides as time will allow
We all know that some information is good and more is better. And what better way to show your mastery of the subject than to have a slide on every conceivable aspect of it. Aim to show at least one slide per minute. If you start running out of time, simply speed up your rate of delivery. This helps to create a sense of urgency about your topic.
Hand out your slides before the presentation
Content is king, so what better way to demonstrate that than by putting the information in people's hands right up front. That way, no one can be deceived that your presence, approachability, integrity and passion are in any way relevant to the presentation.
Do not hand out explanatory materials
What better way to generate discussion after your session than by having people guess what each point on your slide meant in the days and weeks following the event? Handing out extra materials over and above the bullet points on your slides will only spoil the fun. And think of the message you will be sending if such useful information got into the hands of non-attendees. Do you really want to reward those people who were too lazy to attend your presentation anyway?
Avoid eye contact with your audience
Make sure you talk to your slides from the start to the very end. Experts master this aspect with a combination of showing their back to the audience and looking down at their notes. Remember, your personality is irrelevant to a successful delivery. So, at all costs, avoid diverting the audience's attention away from your slides.
Use every slide transition effect available
This is your one chance to shine if your content falls flat. By having your slides crashing, twirling, sliding, dissolving, and so on, you will at least demonstrate your proficiency with the technology. What easier way is there to put the "wow" into your presentation?
With the ten tips above, you are now in a position to draw upon the experience of PowerPoint veterans to improve your next presentation. If you find that your presentations have been missing a number of the above best-practices, endeavor to utilize just one or two in your next presentation. When you have mastered those techniques, move on to the next one or two. Over a period of some months, you will have honed your presentation skills to such an extent that you will be regarded widely as a "PowerPoint supremo". What better testimony can there be to your presentation skills?
Leslie Allan is Managing Director of Business Performance Pty Ltd; a management consulting firm specializing in people and process capability. He has been assisting organizations for over 20 years, contributing in various roles as project manager, consultant and trainer for organizations large and small.
He is also the author of five books on training and change management and is the creator of various training tools and templates. Leslie is a member of the Australian Institute of Management and the Quality Society of Australasia. He is also a member of the Divisional Council of the Victorian Division of the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD). Leslie may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about how to improve the impact of your training programs. Check out Leslie Allan's practical resource kit packed with ideas, tools and templates for implementing effective learning. Visit the From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance information portal to find out how to download the free Introductory Chapter and start using Leslie's comprehensive training guide and toolkit today.