by Guest Blogger Lorrie Nicoles As a long-time writer and short-time business owner, writing a blog for Elizabeth Bachman, The Star Maker for Speakers, initially seemed odd. I mean, I’m a writer, not a speaker. And, while others see speaking in my future, it is not in the current plan. Just as many speakers would rather go mute than write, many writers would rather have their hands cut off than be on the stage. I’m pretty partial to my hands, but speaking is still not high on my Things To Do list. So, what do I have to offer speakers? How about what makes a good PowerPoint presentation? Technology can be so much fun, so having a presentation to accompany your talk can be very alluring. And, a good PowerPoint can really enhance a talk. BUT, a bad PowerPoint can make the best of talks a total disaster! Technical difficulties do not make a bad PowerPoint. They do, however, indicate an unprepared presenter – regardless of who’s actually responsible. Nope, a bad PowerPoint is:
- Bland Looking
- Over-full of Content
- Too Glitzy
These days, it is actually pretty hard to find a truly bland PowerPoint. A slide with just a list of bullets devoid of color, graphics, or any sort of design is almost impossible, because PowerPoint generally doesn’t let people start from a purely blank slate. You have to work pretty hard to create one. However, starting with a basic template and presenting strictly bullet points becomes real boring real quick. Even for the technically klutzy, changing layouts, adding a picture, and playing with fonts and colors is simple enough. There is really no excuse for a presentation lacking in visual stimulation.
This is the one that really gets me. Why bother speaking if everything is on the slide? Too often I go to a talk and come away frustrated because either the slides distracted me from the speaker or the speaker distracted me from the slides. Content for a good slide is a maximum of seven bullet points.
- Bullet Points: No full sentences, just something to jog the memory.
- Maximum of 7 Points: And that is the ABSOLUTE MAXIMUM. If you hit 7 – including sub-bullets – you have run out of space on your slide.
When the entire talk is on the slide, you deprive the audience. Most likely, you will end up reading your talk, not giving it. You lose spontaneity; besides, the audience is too busy reading to pay attention to you, so why bother being spontaneous?
How many presentations have you seen where there is so much design, graphics, and/or animation that you are just dumbfounded? Assuming the projector works, and your computer speaks to it without a problem, an over-done slide can lead to technical difficulties. We’ve all seen a mouse send a presentation in the wrong direction, skip a slide, or just not do anything. Imagine how much worse that looks when all the bling on the slide takes over your presentation. Use PowerPoint as a tool to enhance your talk, not as an opportunity to wow the audience with your awesome skill. You’re just as likely to look like an idiot as a master.
There are some basics to a presentation that I learned from doing, watching, and having a mom in marketing.
- Large Font: If the people at the back of the room can’t read it, then it is too small.
- Readable Font: I love playing with fonts, but there are really very few that I actually use. Remember, pretty does not equal readable.
- Mix Things Up: Change your slide layouts. Include pictures/graphics, but not on every slide. If you are up for it, throw in the occasional – and simple – animation.
- Good Design: Your color scheme must match your brand! If you are getting creative with bullets, make sure they are still clear. Keep the background noise to a minimum.
So, that’s what Tora Writing Services has to offer to Elizabeth Bachman’s speakers. At least for today. Maybe I’ll come up with something else in the future. About Lorrie Nicoles: Lorrie Nicoles is a Written Word Consultant & Content Editor and founder of Tora Writing Services. Lorrie loves words and crafting written messages. Her passion for Clear Communication led her through a short career as a Mine Planning Engineer, over a decade translating other engineers for the rest of the population through software documentation, and eventually starting her own business. As a person of many skills, talents, and personalities, Lorrie repeatedly proves that if she can understand a topic, she can write about it. She regularly credits the combination of growing up in “the Land of the Leftover Hippies” (the Rockridge Neighborhood of Oakland, CA), her marketing mom, forestry dad, and uber-organized banking step-mom with her ability to explain almost anything to almost anyone.