If you’ve followed the previous article’s advice, hopefully you’ll now have a clear and simple template on which to base your slides.
However, although having an effective, consistent design will help no end, it is of course the actual content and how it is presented that will make or break your presentation.
I read a principle on presentations somewhere which I think is very appropriate:
Dumb Slides, Smart Presenter.
Use the slide to present the key words for that slide. They will focus the audience’s attention on the topic you wish to expand on, and they will have to listen to you to get the full message. The key words will also act as prompts for you, the presenter, and allow you to give a non-scripted but organised and effective presentation.
Switching the principle around, what you should avoid is:
Smart Slides, Dumb Presenter.
If you fill the slide with all the information, the audience will read it and not listen to you. Also, the temptation is for the presenter to simply read out loud what is on the slide and not add anything new. This is a surefire way to make a very forgettable presentation.
What we’d recommend here is to use a bulleted list of keywords for that slide, keeping the size of the font large enough to be legible at any distance, but not too large to dominate the slide.
You may animate the list point by point, but there are some caveats here too. Be aware that if you are not pressing the buttons yourself and are relying on someone else to do it for you (at the AV control desk for example), then you should take some time to run the presentation through with them so that they can see where the animations stop on any slide. This will avoid the nasty surprise of the slideshow moving forward to the next slide before you are ready for it to do so.
Avoid mixing different types of animations, as they can throw you off your stride and take the attention away from your presentation.
Similarly, if your slide is becoming complex with lots of animations, consider splitting it into several simpler slides if possible.
We’d recommend not using any sounds with animations and if possible avoid sound effects completely in your presentation. What tends to happen is that they can interrupt a presenter as it’s very easy to forget exactly when they are going to appear.
The use of video on a slide to explain a point can be very effective. However, to date PowerPoint does not make showing videos easy. There are several technical pitfalls that can stop a video from working.
I won’t go into the potential solutions here, but suffice it to say that if your presentation contains video, you really MUST test it on the computer that the presentation is going to run on, with the video projection system running too to ensure that everything appears correctly.
Having said all this, PowerPoint 2010 is much more video-friendly, and adds many new effects. As we write this, it is in testing and should hopefully make its appearance as its name suggests, some time this year.
In summary, keep the amount of information on any slide down to a minimum; use the content as guides and prompts for you to expand on. Don’t use many animations and if you are using video, make sure you have time to test it completely before you step onto the stage.