Over the years, PowerPoint has gotten a bad rap as the go-to tool for uninspired, boring meetings and presentations that might as well have been emailed to everyone instead. Whether you’re in a remote team meeting, listening to the presenter drone on about sales forecasts or at a professional conference, trying to stay engaged during a keynote speech accompanied by hard-to-read, overcrowded slides, the result is the same. Lame presentations are painful, for both the presenter who has to deliver the presentation and the audience who has to endure it.
But your PowerPoint presentation doesn’t have to suck. (Your meetings don’t have to suck, either, but that’s a different post.) Simply follow these simple tips and we’ll show you how to create a winning PowerPoint presentation.
5 Ways to Make Your PowerPoint Presentations More Engaging
It’s easy to blame the tools—and libraries of outdated clipart and transitional effects certainly don’t help. However, the truth is that anyone can learn to create powerful presentations using PowerPoint (or Keynote, or Google Slides) and everyone should invest time in order to learn how to be a better presenter. Sharing ideas, collaborating with colleagues, and flexible work environments are becoming more commonplace, so it’s important to sharpen your communication and presentation skills.
The next time you need to use PowerPoint or another presentation software to communicate, remember these best practices:
Keep it Simple, Stick to the Point
The biggest problem with most PowerPoint presentations is that presenters try to cram everything onto the slides to help them remember what they want to say. This is a huge mistake. Don’t use your slides as a teleprompter. Instead, stick to one main point per slide, the same way you would stick to one main point per paragraph if you were writing a proposal or a report. Of course, this will mean that you won’t be able to rely on your slides as you give your presentation—but that’s actually a good thing. Simplified slides will not only force you to think through your presentation more thoroughly as you do advance preparation, but they will also encourage your audience to pay better attention to your words and encourage you to make a stronger connection with your audience.
Avoid Cliches (And Clipart!)
Quick! What are the top business images that presenters use on boring PowerPoint presentations? Hands encircling a globe. A stack of papers on a desk. A light bulb. A handshake in silhouette. Surely you can instantly think of half-a-dozen of your own to add to the list. Avoid all of these like the plague, as well as the meaningless verbal cliches that often accompany them. Brainstorm with your team members to come up with more creative, interesting ways to present your story. What makes it important? What makes it unique? Communicate those things and lose the corporate speak.
Think Through Your Design
It may be scary, but try not to use a PowerPoint template for your presentation. While you may not be a designer, anyone can learn a few simple design principles that will enliven your presentation. In addition to avoiding bad clipart, remember to watch for readability and use bright, solid colors to enrich your design. There are a number of free online tools such as Adobe Color CC that help novice designers and new designers create eye-pleasing color schemes.
Break Away From Bullet Points
We get it. Bullet points are easy and help presenters stay on track. But they’re also repetitive and, mostly, just as unhelpful as multiple paragraphs on a slide. Three or four bullet points on a slide? Fine. As long as it’s not every slide in the presentation. 25 bullet points? Never—and don’t you dare reveal each bullet one by one as you make your points. There are so many other ways to convey information. Try creating focal points with color or typography, using color bars against a background image to highlight information, and sticking to short, sweet bullet points only when necessary. Remember, your bullet points don’t have to contain all the information or be self-explanatory. You’re there to explain them.
Remember the Audience
No matter how beautiful you make your slides, your presentation will still fall flat if you don’t put some effort into understanding and connecting with your audience. Use genuine empathy, humor, insightful questions, interaction, and other rhetorical techniques to reach your audience and make them glad that they are listening to what you have to say. Begin with the question: “Why is the audience here and what do they need to know?” If you make sure that your presentation feels purposeful and meets your audience’s needs, everything else will fall into place.
Creating a stunning PowerPoint presentation that speaks to your audience doesn’t have to be overwhelming or labor-intensive. When in doubt, remember to keep it simple and use the speech to communicate with your audience, not the slides themselves.