Is there anything worse than sitting in the audience during a presentation, as the speaker reads word-for-word from a series of PowerPoint slides? Does he really not understand that you can read the slides for yourself? Why not just print out a set of slides for everyone in the audience and let you all continue on with your day?
Using PowerPoint slides can actually be a wonderful enhancement to your presentation, but only if you know how to use them properly. Here are some basic rules to consider in order to keep your audience engaged.
Rule #1: Think before you act
Before deciding to use PowerPoint slides as a visual aid, ask yourself a few basic questions: Will these slides be a helpful tool in organizing my ideas? Are there visual images and graphics that would help me communicate my key points? Would this specific audience be receptive to a visual presentation? If you cannot answer "yes" to all of these questions, then you should consider alternate ways to present your information.
Rule #2: Avoid text-heavy slides
Keep the content of each slide short and sweet. Use bullet points rather than paragraphs. Highlight only the key concepts; you can (and should) elaborate on the fine points during your talk.
Rule #3: Use simple colors and fonts
Extreme color choices and fancy fonts can be distracting and make it difficult for the audience to focus on your key points. Choose a simple background color and make sure that any text and graphics show up clearly against that background. And think twice before using a red font or ALL CAPS, which can often signal warning or danger in a reader's mind.
Rule #4: Be consistent
Keep the design of each slide consistent throughout the presentation. Background colors, fonts, and the number and size of images should not vary wildly from one slide to the next. The slides as a whole—particularly if you are printing them out and distributing them—should feel like one cohesive unit.
Rule #5: Don't rely on the slides
Like death and taxes, technological difficulties are a certainty of modern life. You need to know your material cold, so you'll be prepared in the event that you cannot show your slides during the presentation due to power failures, faulty computer programs, or other technological gremlins. Remember that your spoken words should be the "meat" of the presentation; the slides are just optional enhancements, and you should be able to carry on without them.
By keeping these rules in mind, you can create and deliver PowerPoint presentations that are memorable... in a good way.