A presentation can make or break the message you want to get across. Applying sensible, good design and spending enough time to get it right is crucial to the point you are trying to make. It's up to you to ensure your audience takes away the key message, feeling engaged and envigorated. My personal view is that the presentation software you use should enhance or support the presentation, not take over in any way.

You can send your audience to sleep and apply the 'death by bullet point' approach or worse. Or you can ensure they feel so agitated by the colour scheme or animations/sound effects you use that the messages gets lost. With some simple insights and techniques you can make a difference.

In this part of the website I hope to give you some hints and tips of improving your presentation preparation but I'm also very happy to help if you need something specific or you need individualised support.

A good first thing to do is to do an online search for 'the worst PowerPoint presentations'. Apply a critical eye as a viewer and you will learn a lot already.

The key message is maybe: keep it simple and functional, while also pleasant on the eye.

There are different aspects to putting together a good presentation:

  PowerPoint has a lot of tools to help you with the lay-out of your presentation. It takes some effort to get used to them, but it's well worth it. Knowing how to use Slide Master (View > Slide Master) will help you create templates for your entire presentation to help you move away from the standard ones and to ensure that your last slide looks as good as your first one. Think about layout first and you are set to go. The other aspects below will come into that to some extent.
  A good background is the foundation of any presentation. Get this wrong and you are on a losing streak already. I would propose to keep this especially simple. A very striking or busy background can not only make your presentation difficult to read but it can also be the basis for an audience's annoyance, causing people to switch off or get distracted.
  Things to consider with text are the typeface you use and your audience, size - relative to the screen size you will present on, colour relative to background and implied effect. Take into account, where possible, people with dyslexia. Different to web pages, your audience is not able to manipulate the screen to make text more legible for them. The British Dyslexia Association has an excellent style guide.
  I think that without exception, we've all sat through presentations where the well-meaning and very knowledgeable presenter relies on hundreds of very long bullet points, slide after slide. Ideally, I would aim for bullet points as illustration and to summarise and drive home the point you want to make (which is what their basic function is anyway). Try and keep bullet points to one line.
  I would only use pictures to illustrate. It's very tempting to use images to enhance what you feel would be a boring subject, but you may well not achieve this by using pictures alone. Carefully used narrative, illustrative stories that resonate with the audience, will do more. Have a look at presentations by Hans Rosling. He manages to make statistics interesting! Graphics are different and a good tool to move away from bullet points. Here too, use with care and consideration.
  Animation is easily overdone. PowerPoint especially, offers a lot of opportunity to do this. As with all the elements of your presentation, make sure it contributes to your message and use it as a didactic tool, rather than something to entertain. Use animation that helps the message to 'stick'. Remember: LESS IS MORE. It may pay to play around with animation tools away from any presentation to familiarise yourself with what is available, how it works, and what you could find useful in future, when you need it.
  Including video is one of the things I get most questions and queries for help about. Invariably, it involves the career professional integrating a video from Youtube or similar. I can almost guarantee there will be a problem with the network connection if you are not careful, after which the video link will not load. Ideally try and download a video and run it locally from your computer/laptop. Only this will offer reasonable assurance that it will work. Delete the video if not needed anymore and ensure copyright isn't breached.
  I can be fairly short about sound - DON'T! You are trying to convey a message by talking about a subject and sound will only distract from that. In the worst case, it makes your message unintelligible. Especially 'effect sounds' linked to animation should be avoided where possible in my opinion. It's even more important with sound to make sure it enhances your message and that it is functional. Only use sound when strictly necessary - for instance as part of a video.
     

Last but not least: don't be too harsh on yourself. It's all a learning process and it's easy to make mistakes or to realise, in retrospect, that it didn't work! Presenting well is a difficult skill I struggle with still. You will always come across a group of people you present to who won't engage, who you read wrong, or who are simply not interested. Let it slide off, reflect on what you could have done differently for next time, move on!

Please, get in touch if you need my service to help you.

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