21 March 2011

Add Sizzle not ZZZZZZZle to your presentations

Death by PowerPoint.  We have all suffered it and heaven forbid, we should be the culprits!

We all know what makes a BAD PowerPoint ...
  • too much text in too small a font (jeez, I need glasses!)
  • bullet point after bullet point after bullet point (you get the point)
  • sentences read verbatim by the presenter (yes, we can read too!)
  • presenters using laser pointers to shakily point out the important bits.
Fortunately, there is a much better way ...

Pictures paint a thousand words.  But why is it that we forget this when designing our visual aids?  We continue to add word after word to our presentation, then wonder why our presentation lacks lustre.

We can add back the brilliance quickly and easily by changing the way we design our slides:
  • Reduce text on each slides to a few words. The whole idea of visual aids is to make them visual so use images rather than words to help you get your message across.  You are the presenter and you don't need your visual aids to 'tell' your story.  You know what you need to stay better than any slide can, so don't build your slides to compete with you.  YOU be the story-teller, and let your slides be the support act.  
  • Create a flow to help your audience follow the thread of  your presentation.   People read from left to right (in western cultures), so follow the same path for the eye on your slides.  
  • Use the 'Rule of Thirds' to help with layout.  This is a guideline for composition used by photographers to make their shots more visually appealing.  To do this, divide your slide into a 3x3 grid and place your main visual points on the third lines.  The red dots on the image are the 'Power Points' (pun intended), where you place the major design elements.   
  • Use full screen images. Take your photo image to the edge of the slide.  This way, your slide will have maximum impact without the 'jarring' effect of a white border.  They will also look more current and professional.  You can overlay a text box for key words.
A great resource to help with design is Garr Reynolds book 'Presentation Zen Design', which provides great visual examples of these principles.

And look for these principles in practice on billboards, in magazines and other advertising.  You'll soon become accustomed to the design elements to turn a good picture into a great visual.

With just a little practice, you too can design professional looking slides quickly and easily, that add impact and interest to your presentation and keep your audience engaged.