When it comes to our senses, vision trumps the rest. Knowing this makes it easy to learn how to make a PowerPoint presentation. All you need are a few guidelines to get your point across in a succinct and straightforward manner.
Millions of computers are now equipped with PowerPoint. That's an incredible opportunity for beautifully engaging communication. Apply these six simple PowerPoint presentation tips to help your next presentation get your audience to act.
When I'm communicating to persuade, I need to get the point across as clearly as possible. If my presentation slides are cluttered or confusing, I can lose my chance to grab my audience's attention. These PowerPoint presentation tips are well-earned, from my personal experience as a seasoned corporate content marketer, to help save you time and effort.
After giving hundreds of PowerPoint presentations, I've developed the following six tips to help you give clarity to your message and get your point across. These tips have helped me get the attention from the most distracted CEOs to more detail-oriented implementers. Try them out and see if they help you get your point across.
- Design for the purpose.
- Visuals are key.
- Clutter-free is the way to be.
- Be consistent.
- PowerPoint is a tool.
- Use the power of surprise.
1. Design for the purpose.
The first step in deciding how to make a persuasive PowerPoint presentation is to determine your purpose.
Some questions to decide the purpose of your presentation:
- Is your presentation meant to persuade or entertain?
- Are you trying to impress or inform?
- What's your tone?
- What information are you trying to share?
- What feeling do you want your audience to walk away with?
Once you figure out the purpose of your presentation, you can find out if a formal, executive design or a lighter touch is the right one. It sounds simple, but can be surprisingly complex. Knowing the purpose of your presentation, can also help guide your imagery, templates, colors and fonts, keeping them consistent with your objective
2. Visuals are key.
Usability studies have shown that different colors have different impacts on your audience. If you've ever been responsible for logo design, you know that different colors mean different things. A strong use of red can cause viewers to become more excited and agitated. Green can represent both the emotion for envy, but can also share the mood for an ecologically friendly message. Blue is a color that can have a more calming effect. Yellow is a color that creates optimism. If your purpose is to get your audience excited, go with red. If you're delivering tough news, a blue-heavy presentation can help send the message that everything is going to turn out all right. Yellow can also help with tough news. Check out all the information online to learn more about color psychology in presentation.
- Wikipedia shares current color psychology.
- Slide Genius shares a comprehensive overview of colors in presentations.
Determine what kind of information you're trying to get across.
Although “insert table" and “insert chart" are now standards in the PowerPoint canon, it's wise to restrain yourself in today's info-beleaguered audiences. If you're giving a technical presentation, it may be appropriate to add more data and charts to your slides. If that's the case, keep the presentation straightforward and make your handout do the heavy lifting. If your presentation is about marketing or leadership, remember the simpler the slides, the clearer the communication. Make sure each slide is backed up with provable data so you can refer to it when questioned, but keep the presentation itself straightforward.
We see presentations, we don't read them. PowerPoint presentation tips around imagery include these industry-standard best practice:
- Using effective imagery makes your PowerPoint design more engaging. Find the highest quality imagery to get your point across.
- Using images with minimal words can help craft an emotional response to your presentation. It can also keep the focus on you and your story. Consider stock photography websites and photographs from your company's own creative department to help communicate your story more effectively.
5. Clutter-free is the way to be.
It's likely most of us have had to sit through long-winded PowerPoint presentations that went too deep into the backstory and not enough into relevant steps forward. When deciding how to make the best PowerPoint, keeping the message streamlined is one of the hardest PowerPoint tips to implement. Once you get started, it's incredibly difficult to keep it simple. Despite that challenge, streamlining your messaging is vital to successful communication in today's market. Pull out any information that does not directly communicate your message. It's not easy, but you need to remember you're there to present, not talk your audience through the entire backstory on each slide.
Help your audience remember and apply your information by remembering the following tips:
- Excluding any corporate logos or design element, use no more than one graphic image or chart per slide.
- Use white space generously. White space sets the tone of your design and affects the usability dramatically. White space around the biggest items on the slide can convey elegance. The more white space, the more impactful your message.
- Distracting transitions can detract from your message by making you look amateur. Stick to the basics when it comes to transitions between slides.
- A good way to keep yourself in line is by remembering the 666 rule. Presentation University recommends slides shave no more than six words per bullet, six bullets per image and six word slides in a row.
6. Be consistent.
Thanks to inconsistent corporate implementation, there can be a temptation to waver. That said, if you stay consistent, you'll find it easier to share your vision with your audience. Remember to use the same colors, imagery style and fonts throughout your presentation. To help keep the focus on you and your story, use no more than two font families, two colors and one imagery style throughout your presentation. Templates help you maintain a consistent look. Either create your own template or find one online to suit your purpose. Be warned, some templates are so busy, they can detract from your message. Find templates that follow the 666 rule, as well as those that limit fonts, colors and imagery styles.
Great resources for stunning PowerPoint resources include the following:
- HubSpot offers three PowerPoint templates.
- Envato also shares PowerPoint templates for any need.
- Presentation Magazine shares literally thousands of PowerPoint templates.
7. PowerPoint is a tool.
When you're in the throes of developing a stellar presentation, it's easy to forget that PowerPoint isn't you, it's just a tool you use to get your point across. Remembering this is key in successful PowerPoint design. The story is yours. The goal is yours. It's important to use the slides in your presentation to highlight and emphasize key points to persuade your group, board or audience. Remember, you're the one telling the story. This is your story.
8. Use the power of surprise.
Memorable PowerPoint presentations use the power of surprise to go beyond the unexpected. This element of surprise can be used to entertain your audience. If you want your business to stand out, you can't afford to copy all the other presentations that came before you. You need to go beyond the expected.
When determining how to make a PowerPoint presentation, remember to unearth the unexpected to create attention and affection. You can do this through sharing research, telling a personal anecdote, or illustrating how things went wrong. All of these tactics are successful ways to persuade an audience and get your point across.
Now that you know these PowerPoint tips, you can design for the purpose, remember that visuals are key, keep your presentation streamlined and clutter-free, keep consistent, use PowerPoint to your end (not the other way around) and surprise your audience, you're fully prepared to get your message across to your intended audience.
Want more information about PowerPoint? Resources abound.
- Presentation Zen is the leading resource for reasonable PowerPoint design.
- The PowerPoint blog has examples and insight to help your presentations shine.
- The SlideMagic tool offers inspiration for your next C-level presentation.
A version of this article was originally published on June 14, 2011.