The presenter takes their place. Anticipation! The speaker fiddles around with the computer and then… their first slide! Oh, no, 10 bullet points, no image and more text follows as the presenter drones on, slowly driving a lethal stake into their presentation… and the audience.
Has this ever happened to you while sitting in an audience? Presentations have gained a bad rep—for good reason. At one point, we’ve all sat through those long-winded speeches and hot mess PowerPoints. Don’t fear, we’re here to help!
We’ve compiled a list of the top 7 mistakes to avoid and what to do instead to improve your next PowerPoint presentation. (These presentation tips can work beyond PowerPoint to Keynote, Prezi and any other presentation tool you use!)
Mistake #1: Not preparing
Decide on the goal of the presentation. By creating an outline first, you ensure that the content of your presentation is solid before you concern yourself with the visual elements.
Mistake #2: Too much text
Too much text is a design killer.
If you’re going to put word for word what you’re going to say, hand over the slides and take a seat instead. After all, if your audience is reading what you’re saying, then what’s the point of you being there? Remember you’re not giving a document, you’re giving a presentation.
Instead of full sentences, use bullet points to deliver the key ideas on your slides. On average, each bullet should have no more than 6 words and each slide should have no more than 6 bullet points.
When using bullet points, build them one by one on the slide using the simple appear animation effect. This way, you can speak to each point individually and talk about it without your audience skipping ahead.
Mistake #3: Not enough visuals
Even for well rehearsed presentations, a bad visual experience can ruin it for the audience. Plus, can you think of anything more boring than staring at pure text for an hour? Remember, a picture really is worth a 1,000 words!
When possible, look for ways to use a visual, such as a diagram or photograph, to illustrate the point you are making instead of text. Audiences respond better to visuals that get them thinking.
Don’t get stuck using cheesy stock art when you can nab free high quality photos that make a much stronger visual statement. Sites like http://www.freeimages.com/ offer photos which are free to use and many only require attribution, which can be thrown in at the end of your presentation with a link to the source.
Tip: Don’t get carried away — it’s a presentation, not a photo album.
Avoid clip art as it often undermines the professionalism of you as the presenter. There may exceptions, so use carefully and sparingly.
Mistake #4: Bad Design
People are able to throw together some of the most atrocious, ugly, and utterly boring presentations on the planet. Using the slide themes included in your software is presentation suicide. They’re overused, boring and usually pretty ugly.
We understand that for non-designers leaving behind templates may seem a bit scary, but you can do it! Remember to maintain a consistent use of colors, images and alignment to give a cohesive look to your presentation. Whitespace is a good thing. The less clutter you have on your slide, the more powerful your visual message will become.
Select colors that have high contrast, so that the text and graphics can be easily seen when shown. (Dark backgrounds need a light text color). Check the contrast of your colors with the online Color Contrast Calculator.
Tip: If your background image is overly busy, portions of your text may not be legible. In that case, a stylish bar of color behind the text can bring the legibility back while adding visual interest.
Mistake #5: Bad fonts
Non-designers frequently stress out about finding the proper typeface for a presentation and for good reason. The right font can make or break your presentation.
Remember that typefaces can communicate a mood, a point in time, or any number of other factors. Instead of browsing your font list and looking for “something cool,” instead think about the message you want to convey.
Consider the fonts below as an example of how typography can communicate with its design. Old style serif fonts tend to feel formal and professional while sans-serif fonts feel modern and clean. Never be afraid of standard-looking fonts. Using them can help ensure that your design remains inside the realm of clean and professional and away from cluttered and ugly.
Tip: Use Sans Serif Fonts. While you can use a creative font for a slide title, avoid using it for body text. Instead, stick to clean, traditional typefaces like Helvetica.
Our rule is that you should usually not use a font below 18 point size. If the font is too small, no one will be able to read the words. However, if your slides are going to be projected over a wide area, there’s no need to enlarge the text excessively to fill the available space.
Mistake #6: Animations
Don’t be tempted to use anything too distracting like “Checkerboard”, “Honeycomb” or “Flip”. Or, even worse, choose different transitions for each slide.
Avoid movement of slide elements, it is very distracting to the audience. Avoid dissolves, spins or other transitions. If you have your heart set on using transitions stick to a simple one like “Fade”. Wow them with your content, not your transitions!
Mistake #7: No Conclusion Slide
Every presentation needs a conclusion. Too many speakers simply end a presentation by saying “that’s all I have.” If you have a concluding slide with 3 – 5 summary points, you’ll leave the audience with a much stronger impression. You can never emphasize and restate your main points too often.
We hope you’ve found these tips practical and easy to implement yourself.
Ultimately the goal here was to show you that you don’t necessarily have to be a designer to create great looking presentation. Leave a comment below if you want to join the discussion and share your own tips and tricks for better slide design.