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July 2003 - Using PowerPoint Effectively

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July 2003

Using PowerPoint Effectively

PowerPoint has become very popular, but many people misuse it.  Here are some things to keep in mind as you present PowerPoint slides to use in your presentations.

  • Simplify.  Too many speakers write too much text on the slides.  Replace sentences with key words and phrases.  Generally, use punctuation only if absolutely needed.  Don’t use fancy fonts, images, clip art, and sounds.  They usually detract.  Visuals should support or aid in presenting your message.
  • Follow the Triple 6 Rule.  That is, after the heading, use no more than six lines and no more than six words to a line.  Also, the audience should grasp its meaning in 6 seconds.  Have good reasons for exceptions to this rule.  For example, listing the names of the supporting characters from the story, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”  Which one would you leave out?   Dopey, Sneezy, Doc?
  • Consider using build-up slides when there’s too much information to grasp in 6 seconds; also if you want to focus audience attention on each point as you discuss it.   In any case, have each new point “appear” rather than “fly,” “crawl,” or “peek.” It’s more professional and less distracting.
  • Choose typeface carefully.  New and exciting font styles appear often.  Have fun experimenting.  Choose a font that is easy to read.  Avoid script, decorative fonts, and italics except to highlight certain words or communicate a certain tone or mood.
  • You may use boldface type for PowerPoint slides, unless; it makes the type look “fat” or rounded and difficult to read.  This is often the case.  Experiment, find out what works best. Use both capital and lowercase letters.  It is easier for your audience to read. Don’t “shout” at viewers with all caps.
  • Be consistent on font use.   First, within a slide—you may use more than one typeface or font on a slide, but using more than two tends to clutter the visual and confuse the audience.  Second, between and among slides—jumping from typeface to typeface or format to format detracts from professionalism and hinders communication.
  • Be consistent with backgrounds.  I am constantly amazed at how many people “mix it up” to keep things interesting.  Actually, varying backgrounds distracts the audience.
  • Build in gaps with a neutral slide so you can talk to the audience with no visual showing.  Or, if you are controlling your own slides from a laptop, simply press the letter b for the screen to go black or w for the screen to go white.  Press the letter again and the slide reappears.  A period also works.  Also, have a neutral slide at the end, or perhaps end the presentation with a visual identical to the opening one, with title, name of presenter and whatever else is appropriate.
  • Color can attract, highlight, contrast or create a feeling or mood.  Some research indicates that using color increases willingness to read the visual, retention of the material, and acceptance of an idea.   Furthermore, the evidence is clear that color outsells black and white.  But several points about color should be understood.

Next month I’ll discuss how to use color effectively.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

July 2003 - Using PowerPoint Effectively
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