by Kailee Goold
We’ve all been there.
Emailing or checking Twitter while a speaker wraps up another unbearable presentation. We do it because the presentation isn’t capable of keeping our attention. The speaker reads wordy slides to the audience and is often so unprepared they speed through 15 slides in the last two minutes.
And yet, when it’s our turn to present a topic to colleagues, clients, or potential clients–we do the same thing! Let’s stop the insanity.
Presentations are an opportunity to demonstrate your skills and expertise while building a meaningful relationship with the audience. Your speech, PowerPoint slides, and handouts are all reflections of you and your work product. So when it comes to preparing, don’t be lazy.
Here are five ways I send the right message with my PowerPoint presentations:
- Know your audience. When you book a presentation ask about the audience. Tailor your style and content to the specific group. What you put on your slides and the level of depth you cover completely depends on your audience and their understanding of the topic. Not to mention, jokes about your latest TV obsession may not get a big laugh in a group of men over 50 and twenty-somethings won’t always understand a 1980’s reference.
- Less words on your slides. You are the most essential component of every presentation you give. You should add value to your slides. Slides are not a prompter to read to your audience nor a place to dump as much data as possible. You can always supplement your presentation with a handout, so there is no reason to turn the audience off with text-heavy slides. No one—and I repeat no one—has ever enjoyed a presentation where paragraphs of information are read to them off of slides.
- One thought per slide. Put each idea on a new slide. There is nothing wrong with having a lot of slides (especially when you are not reading off of them). PowerPoint has great tools to help you avoid a bulleted list on every slide. Take some free online training in PowerPoint and use its SmartArt feature. Get comfortable with more slides with less on them. A slide with an engaging picture or image is more powerful and memorable than a bulleted list.
- Provide a meaningful handout. Give your audience something to take away that reflects you and the purpose of the presentation. The content of your handout obviously depends on your audience. You can’t go wrong providing the key points and main takeaways with your contact information, especially for clients or potential clients. If it is an information-heavy presentation, make sure you provide room for notes. Avoid printing your slides as your handout. Remember, your slides alone should not be helpful to a reader because you as the speaker add the real value.
- Look at some of the best PowerPoints online. Learn from the best. Take a look at how other people are presenting with PowerPoint. Notice the difference between text-heavy slides and a powerful image. Get ideas for which colors and fonts fit your message. Some good places to start:
An engaging presentation takes a bit more work to prepare. However, I believe it is worth the extra effort to send the right message about yourself and your abilities.