Make Power Points Powerful

I don’t know about you, but I loved show-and-tell as a kid.

Unfortunately, however, the adult version of show-and-tell—the Power Point presentation—often leaves a lot to be desired. And it seems I’m not alone when I say this. In fact, a political party in Switzerland has just started a movement to ban the use of Power Point in Switzerland.

I wish them luck (and would certainly sign their petition if I could) Until then, however, I thought I’d send along a few ways to make your next Power Point presentation powerful.

Ready, Set, Room

  • You need to ensure that the podium or table from behind which you are speaking is at the left of the screen as the audience faces you. Why? Because we read from left to right, and if you stand to the right of the screen you’re making us work too hard; this means we don’t like you as much.
  • Make sure you have a light source that will light you once the room is darkened. It’s a lot harder to shine when your audience can’t see you. If you present a lot in different conference rooms and so, aren’t ever sure what you’ll be walking into, it’s worth investing in a small spotlight [You can get them at Radio Shack] to bring with you when you speak.
  • Have the person who turns down the lights when the slides begin know to turn them up again during your question and answer session. Q & A is tough enough without doing it in the dark.

Slide Sense:

Keeping the following rules and ideas in mind when you write up your slides will make a measurable difference in how your work is received:

  • The 10 20 30 Rule: This is a rule created and espoused by Guy Kawasaki, Chief Evangelist of Apple Macintosh. He claims– and I agree—that every presentation should have no more than ten slides, should go on for no more than twenty minutes, and the type on each slide should be no smaller than thirty points. If you have to use smaller type to fit in all the things you want to say, then you don’t have a strong handle on either how you factor into the presentation or on the material you’re presenting.
  • The Reverse Six: When placing multiple pieces of discrete information, logos, or pictures on one slide, you want to first sort the images by importance and then place them in a reverse six pattern on the slide, from most to least important. This will ensure the images you most want to highlight are in the slide’s ‘sweet spot’. (Note: you will see this same technique used in many magazine cover taglines.)
  • The Left/Right Rule: If you are placing two images or products side by side, you want to put the one you want your audience to choose, or pay greater attention to, on the right hand side of the slide. No matter how sophisticated we may believe ourselves to be, we still view the left hand side as sinister. (Note: this is why the majority of talk show hosts sit so they appear on the right hand side of your television screen. It’s also why when they do a product compare/contrast in a television commercial, the product they want you to buy will be on the right hand side of your screen.

Practice is Perfect

One of the drawbacks to using it is that we get so caught up in building our deck that we don’t have the stamina left over to practice the presentation of that deck.

Alternatively, some of us have come to think that because we have the visuals we no longer have to be concerned about how we are going to present those visuals.

And, finally, many of us feel stupid practicing out loud when there’s no audience present. It feels too much like being back in kindergarten playing make-believe–and I get that. (For the record, I hated make-believe. I am what nursery school teachers refer to as “very grounded in reality.” )

That said, I can’t say often enough how important it is to practice every presentation out loud before you deliver it.

Finally– and I don’t imagine there are very many of you who are going to like reading this– it’s not enough to practice it once and say, “OK. I see what I need to do. I don’t need to practice it again.” You need to practice it again. And then you need to practice it at least once more after that.