For most of us, the prospect of giving a PowerPoint presentation is downright petrifying. All that energy spent writing concise bullet points, making sure fonts, photos, and formats match up, building transitions between slides, getting the finished package to play properly…That’s all before you have to stand up in front of a crowd and command the room for 15 or 30 minutes with winning conversation and an easygoing attitude.
But PowerPoint is here to stay: like its Word and Excel partners in the Microsoft Office productivity suite, PowerPoint’s market share hovers somewhere north of 90%, with approximately one billion installations around the globe. So instead of getting frustrated next time you have to give a PowerPoint presentation, consider the following 10 strategies for slideshow success.
1) Be consistent, from beginning to end. This goes for everything: fonts, font sizes, and font colors. Text and photo alignment. Bulleted vs. numbered lists. Image quality. Backgrounds. Consider using one of PowerPoint’s many practical templates and let the program do all the heavy uniform lifting.
2) Don’t cram so many facts into one small space. Yes, it’s tempting to just copy and paste whole chunks of text into your PowerPoint and call it a day. But your presentation should present a compelling story that sells an audience on your argument. Opt instead for succinct lists, short, snappy sentences, and appealing visual graphics—and if you must include all that supporting information…
3) Create hard-copy handouts (and place that extra material there). As long as it’s affordable and environmentally feasible, consider delivering printed documents (not just slide print-outs) to the audience as a supplement to your PowerPoint. If your presentation just can’t live without certain important facts, feel free to pack them in here.
4) Limit transitions, animations, and sounds. Ever laugh at a headline fly-in or fade effect deployed over and over again in that excruciating PowerPoint presentation? Remember that next time you sit down to make one. The last thing you want is for a mishandled special effect to take away from the high quality of your content and the strength of your slideshow.
5) Hook your audience early. The flip side of the above point is that the most effective way to sell your PowerPoint is by thinking outside the box—and right from the very beginning. Capture your co-workers’ attention with an intriguing anecdote or captivating question at the start and you will find that their emotional investment will remain high until the end.
6) Avoid using your presentation as a teleprompter. As marketing guru, Seth Godin says, “Slides should reinforce your words, not repeat them.” In other words, the words written on your slide for the whole audience to see should not be repeated verbatim. Use your presentation as a jumping-off point for a deeper conversation. Encourage crowd members to ask questions. And try to talk like you would at a business lunch: still professional, of course, but dynamic and agreeable enough to keep things interesting.
7) Use keyboard shortcuts to demonstrate your expertise. Your slides are an extension of you, not the other way around—in other words, you should always be the audience’s main focus, not the screen behind you. To reinforce that idea, deploy a few smooth shortcut moves to command attention. Our favorites include:
- Press N or Enter or Page Down or Right Arrow or Down Arrow or Spacebar to advance to the next slide
- Press P or Page Up or Left Arrow or Up Arrow or Backspace to return to the previous slide
- Press <number>+ Enter to jump to a specific slide number
- Press B or Period to fade to black (or W or Comma to fade to white)
- Press S or + to stop or restart an automatic slideshow
- Press Esc or Ctrl+Break or–to finish a slideshow
8) Don’t let the crowd see your crowded desktop. Another way to show off your PowerPoint skills is to jump right into a slideshow by naming your finished product with a .PPS or .PPSX extension. That way when you double-click it, it opens directly in the Slideshow window, not PowerPoint’s standard edit mode.
9) Take a little extra time for a second (or third) run-through. Even when you think you have your PowerPoint done, give it another look (or three)—especially after you take a break from it and let things marinate for a bit. One of the biggest benefits of extra editing, updating, and enhancing is that you can spend more time looking at the big picture of your presentation. This leads us to our final point…
10) Tell a cohesive story. A good PowerPoint presentation contains more than just an intro slide, a closing slide, and a bunch of filler in between. Make sure each slide ties into your narrative and contributes to your overall goal, which should be to make a compelling argument about your topic of choice. Follow this last recommendation and everyone will walk away from your slideshow with a good idea of what you were trying to accomplish (and maybe even invite you to present again in the near future!)
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