Written by Peter Watts
It’s a trend to bash presentation graphics. “Skilled presenters don’t use them”, “PowerPoint is evil!” etc etc. Indeed, there are a lot of awful presentations out there, but blaming presentation software is like blaming cars for the occurrence of poor driving.
The secret to effective use of presentation graphics is to work backwards. Start by considering how great presenters work with slides when they are on stage, and then extrapolate a few guidelines to design the perfect visuals.
The number one difference between the experienced presenter and the novice is the amount of time spent looking at the audience compared to the amount of time spent looking at the slides. Novice presenters will speak while looking backwards at the screen, while the pro’s never will. It’s OK to turn during presentations and glance back at your slides, but you mustn’t talk while doing it.
What does this mean for the slide design? The more written content you have on your slide, the more you will find yourself needing to turn around and navigate from it. Slides dense with verbiage compel presenters to read from them.
Your audience will read or listen, but not at the same time
There’s nothing worse than feeling that your audience aren’t with you; that nobody is looking at you, or even listening to you. This is caused by the fact that a thickly packed slide of bullet points will make the audience demonstrate their attention by reading their way through the bullet points. With the best will in the world, they cannot attend to the bullets points and attend to you. This is why you have that icky feeling of playing second-fiddle to a projector.
Nobody looks their best in a strait-jacket
The more words you have on your slide, the more it will resemble a script, and scripts can be really hard to deviate from. Those words become a strait jacket. Pro presenters cherish freedom of movement. Breaking news or subtle changes can happen right up to the moment you go on stage, and a dynamic presenter will flow with those changes so that even standard presentations appear freshly pressed.
Every presentation must be different
No two audiences are alike. They will have different priorities, different problems, and different perspectives. To be successful in persuading them, you need to be able to adapt your message to different paradigms. Lots of words make presentations specific. Fewer words and more pictures leave presentations open and adaptable.
Clear the stage
You’re about to put on a stage show and the good folks here at Quick2LAUNCH are your set-designers. To give them the best potential to match your potential, minimize your word count. Before sending in your presentation, clear as much clutter of verbiage as possible, and allow for the creation of a stage that offers you:
The fewer the words, the more scope for plain space. Plain space looks great. It looks classy. It’s sometimes known as “white space”, but it doesn’t have to be white, almost any color will do, so long as it’s refreshingly and classily empty!
It’s a much hacked cliche but a picture paints a 1000 words, and well chosen pictures will create the potential to address multiple ad hoc topics in your presentation.
Whole sentences need to be laid-out in left-to-right space-breaking formations, while whole paragraphs (God forbid!) will hog an entire slide and send everybody back into reading mode. Boiling your message down to a few action-oriented words will leave the ground open for an eye-catching on-screen arrangement of those words.
You’re the Main Act
In a presentation, it’s the presenter who delivers the words. That’s why you have a presenter at a presentation! The slides behind you are your backing group. The slides are the Supremes to your Diana Ross. You want them to look great, give toe-tapping background rhythm, and send you on your way to stardom.
The slides handle the chorus. You take the lyrics!