The most important part of your presentations is indeed you, but you have to come to grips with two solid facts: 1) people love slide shows like dogs love fire hydrants, especially if they’re displayed on a big screen; and 2) presentations that you distribute in hard-copy or electronic form often become little Bibles walking around the office and being referenced countless times. So you should make them good!
Of course, there are two basic ways to put the guts of a slide presentation together – do it yourself, or have someone else do it for you. Believe it or not, there is a distinct advantage to being able to do it yourself, as you have the opportunity to make your slides look exactly as you want. But for whoever is creating the slides, a detailed knowledge of the software program used is essential. In fact, as the capabilities of these programs have increased, it has become much easier to spot the “novice” presentation just by the way it looks and feels.
Now, assuming you’ve mastered the technical art of slide-making, here are some important guidelines to follow as you build your content and seek to make your presentation powerful:
- Be aware of how your audience will want to use your slides for future reference. The more reliance they will likely place on the presentation after it is over, the more you must make each slide “stand alone” in delivering its part of your message.
- Each slide must have a clear purpose and be focused on that purpose. Even if a slide is meant to function primarily as a speaker prompt, it should be complete enough to trigger memories of what you said when reviewed later.
- Use colors, boxes, arrows, etc. efficiently to draw attention to the most important parts of each slide, and to help people remember what was there. You say it, they see it, and they see it with some flash – that’s a nice combo.
- When you do bulleted lists, avoiding mixing verb phrases and noun phrases in the same list, and make your verbs parallel in tense. The flow and ease of understanding is greatly enhanced.
- Use high-quality graphics. Fuzzy pictures don’t cut it, and generally, neither does cheap, poorly-done clipart. Professional means crisp, clean lines, complementary colors, and high-quality multi-media.
- Try very hard not to put too much on a slide. Yes, sometimes the audience demands it, but there is a lot to be said for having some clear space and not cluttering up the viewers’ field of vision. You want to inform and persuade, not befuddle and annoy.
- Make sure your slides are numbered, and that each slide’s title matches its content (because slides are often “reused” as templates for the slides in the next presentation).
- When you’re presenting, don’t just read your slides! Talk to the subject like you really know it (which you should), and only glance at a slide as a prompt to get the dialogue flowing.
- As we’ve said before, proofread everything thoroughly and more than once – unless your audience has no power to impact your life; in that case you have no worries.
At the end of the day, you want to leave people with valuable information and a positive impression, both of which will help you and them as you seek to be successful in your business.