Creating Effective PowerPoint Slides

After last looking at the macro approach to presentations, which involved figuring out which pieces go where and in what order and creating a cohesive whole, in this post we'll discuss building the individual slide itself -- how to title, how to use graphics, etc.

1. Each slide needs a title. A lot of presentation specialists may argue the point, but how confusing is it to come into the middle of a presentation having missed the first five minutes and there's a slide up without any telling information on it. It's a graph, with lots of numbers, but the late arriving attendee has no idea what the information represents and has to dig through his handout or ask someone for information. Why not just put a headline on it? It's an easy, straightforward, audience-friendly approach.

2. Titles are not all considered equal. Communications specialist Mary Munter terms good titles as "message titles" and bad titles as "topic titles." Basically, a topic title is something like "Our Company" while a message title is "Our Company's Growth in 2008." So many presentation templates emphasize the use of topic titles (for those presenters just quickly throwing together their slides at the last minute), but take a few more minutes and think it through. How best can you explain what's on that slide? What message do you want to send about that slide?

3. Using graphs, word charts, and concept diagrams. Slide after slide of text may not be the best approach. If you have information that can be presented another way, why not try it? In most presentation programs, there are a variety of chart options to insert into your presentation. If you are presenting several "how much" or "how" concepts, consider doing so with charts, graphs, or concept diagrams. Rather than just using a bulleted list, why not use a more visual representation? There are a myriad of options available in PowerPoint, some over the top and unnecessary, but a simple chart used here and there can spice up an otherwise unfriendly presentation.

Do people retain information by reading it or by understanding connections between it and other information? It depends on their learning style. If you calculate that about half of your audience will be visual, using graphs and charts will help them, and will still reach the other half of your audience that are verbal or aural learners, or a combination of the two.

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