Have to give a PowerPoint presentation? Don’t panic — and definitely don’t start cramming your slideshow with unnecessary content. Instead, channel your energy into the right kind of productivity boosters: concise bullet points, matching fonts, appropriate images, and subtle transitions. Knowing what to do and how to do it in this critical part of the Microsoft Office productivity suite is key — and that’s before you have to stand up in front of a crowd and command an audience’s attention for 15 or 30 minutes.
Like its Outlook, Word, and Excel partners within Microsoft Office, 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 deliver a successful slideshow, consider the following 10 strategies to make PowerPoint work for you.
1. Be consistent, from beginning to end.
This goes for all the little details:
- Font types, sizes, and colors
- The alignment of text and images
- Bulleted vs. numbered lists
- Background color schemes
- Transitions between slides, and more
Consider using one of PowerPoint’s built-in templates to let the program do the heavy lifting when it comes to consistency.
2. Think like an editor and delete rather than add.
Sure, it’s easy to copy and paste big sections of text into your PowerPoint presentation and call it a day. But think of your slideshow as a compelling story that needs to convince an audience of the merits of your argument. To that end, opt for brief lists, short, snappy sentences, and appealing graphics. And if you must include all that supporting information…
3. Print out hard-copy handouts for all that extra material.
As long as it’s affordable and environmentally feasible, consider delivering printed documents (not just print-outs of your slides) to the audience as a supplement to your presentation. If your PowerPoint has to include those important facts, feel free to pack them in here.
4. Use transitions, animations, and sounds sparingly.
If you’ve ever laughed at a headline fly-in or fade effect deployed over and over again in an excruciating PowerPoint presentation, remember that before you sit down to build your own. The last thing you want is a misguided 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’ll find that their emotional investment will remain high until the end.
6. Don’t read from the teleprompter!
As marketing guru Seth Godin says, “Slides should reinforce your words, not repeat them.” Put another way, the words written on your slide for the whole audience to see should not be repeated verbatim — presumably everyone in your audience can read. Instead, use your presentation as jumping-off point for deeper conversation. Encourage crowd members to ask questions during the slideshow. And try to talk like you would at a business lunch: professional, of course, but dynamic 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 Arrowor 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, instead of navigating to it from your desktop. When you’re finished with your presentation, save it with a .PPS or .PPSX extension, which denotes a complete slideshow. That way when you double click it, it opens directly in the Slideshow window, not PowerPoint’s standard edit mode.
9. Do a second (or third) run-through before you present.
PowerPoint presentations are notoriously often finished mere minutes before they’re delivered, which can lead to minor violations of the previously stated tips. Even if you think you’re done, give that slideshow another look (or three) — especially after you take a break from it and let the idea of presenting it bounce around in your head. One of the biggest benefits of extra time spent editing and polishing is that you can spend more time thinking about your presentation’s big picture. Which 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 in to 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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