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Presentations should draw attention to speaker, not detailed slides

Jan 17, 2013 - From staff reports

Question -- "I don't like giving presentations but, when I do, it seems like PowerPoint is pretty much the standard tool. If I absolutely have to do a PowerPoint presentation, what can I do to make my presentation more effective?"

-- Jerry, Casper

Answer -- "Just put together a quick PowerPoint." How many times have we heard this advice when preparing for a presentation?

By now, PowerPoint should be included in thesauruses as a synonym for presentation. Despite being overused, sometimes it really is the only choice when presenting. When given no other options, there are always some basic, but powerful ways to make a PowerPoint presentation even better:

- Keep slides brief. Do not fill a slide with text. Slides crowded with text are difficult to read and draw the audience's attention away from what they should be paying attention to -- you. If using bullet points, which I prefer, limit to four or five at most.

- Don't read to the audience. The information on slides should serve as a cue for to elaborate on the topic, not as the presentation's script. Highlight main points and use slides as note cards to keep on track.

- Use large text. Depending on how large the audience is, it may be difficult to read slides from the back of the room. Use 28- to 32-point size font, which is recommended. This helps keep slides brief as well.

- Don't be afraid to use different, interesting or creative formats. All slides don't have to follow the typical "title-subheading-bullet points" format. In fact, varying the style of slides can keep the audience more engaged. Using something different -- such as one picture or a single word -- enables the audience to refocus on what is being said instead of what is on the slide.

- Don't get caught up in using effects. There are plenty of choices for slide transition effects -- sounds and graphics to spice up slides -- but resist the urge to overuse them. Simple fades in and out of slides are fine, but some transitions are distracting and unprofessional. Also, along with sounds and graphics, they can draw attention away from an actual presentation. The content of a presentation, not the effects, should be the audience's focus.

Whether you like it or not, giving a presentation with PowerPoint is probably unavoidable. So, as long as you are going to use it at some point, it is worth learning a few simple tips to help make the presentation more effective and enjoyable for the audience.

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Editor's note: Brett Housholder is a market researcher, part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, email at wsbdc@uwyo.edu or call at 1-800-348-5194.

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