1: Presentation First, PowerPoint Second
The biggest mistake people make when creating a PowerPoint presentation is that they make PowerPoint the presentation’s focus. The focus should be on the presenter and on the compelling story that he has to tell. PowerPoint is most effective at providing supplementary information, like simple, colorful graphs, but should never be the main source of information. The worst thing a presenter can do is to turn around and read from the PowerPoint screen. If all of the information is on the screen, then there’s no need for the presenter [source: Business Training Direct].
2: Tell a Story
The goal of any presentation is to sell the audience on an idea. It could be a pitch for investing in a new company, a plan for reorganizing a business or a proposal for a scientific research project. For the audience to understand the presentation on an intellectual as well as an emotional level, it needs to be told as a cohesive narrative — a story. The audience needs to know three things:
Where we are now
Where we want to end up
How we’re going to get there
PowerPoint slides should be used to communicate those three simple ideas. This is best accomplished by simple text statements, strong images and graphs.
3: Show It, Don’t Write It
Human beings are highly visual learners. It’s much easier for our brains to remember a strong, unique image than a series of facts and figures. PowerPoint is a great, easy-to-use program for creating dozens of different types of graphs and charts. Remember that the simpler and bigger the graph, the better. For example, if you want to drive home the point that Windows PCs control a large majority of the home computer market, show a pie chart with a huge chunk of the pie filled in with red and the word “PC.” No matter how many stats you quote, this image will get the message home faster and will stick with the audience longer.
4: The Rule of 10
Guy Kawasaki — former Apple “chief evangelist,” venture capitalist and professional speaking guru — hasestablished his famous “Kawasaki Rule of Ten” in which he only uses 10 slides during a PowerPoint presentation, often in a “top 10” fashion. Those 10 slides generally consist of nothing more than a single sentence or phrase and a supporting image. The 10 slides give the audience powerful visual cues that reinforce the message that Kawasaki is communicating. And since the audience knows that there are only going to be 10 slides — and 10 main points to cover during the presentation — they know when the presentation is about to end. Which brings us to our final tip.
5: Keep it Short
No one ever complained about a PowerPoint presentation being too short. The second an audience gets bored and stops paying attention, the presentation loses its effectiveness. The audience not only stops processing new information, but begins to resent the presenter for wasting their time. Kawasaki, for example, thinks that an ideal PowerPoint presentation should last no longer than 20 minutes.
For lots more information on PowerPoint presentations and related business topics, check out the links on the next page.