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Body Movement in your Presentation; How to Make it or Break it

Would you deem it appropriate for Obama to give his State of the Union address while sitting in a “chris-cross-applesauce” position? No, you would not. That is because you know that he would look childish, immature, unprofessional, and similar to how I sat in elementary school.  Body language dictates how we are perceived in any situation. On a very base, subconscious level, and this goes double when we’re in front of an audience, body language can make or break what people think of us and what we are saying in a matter of seconds. When all eyes are on you, your movements, posture and body language carry more gravity than usual, so each requires even more attention on your part.

Most studies find that verbal communication makes up less than 10 percent of all human communication, while nonverbal communication (i.e. body language, eye contact, etc.) makes up roughly 55 percent of communications. Here are a few tips to guarantee your body is portraying the message that aligns with your professional presentation.

 

Face your audience head on

Take a power stance: Square your shoulders to the direction of the audience and plant your feet far enough apart to be sturdy and balanced. However, if you’ve ample space when presenting, utilize it. Facing your audience head on doesn’t mean becoming a statue. Make it a deliberate point to move from point to point while you speak. This will give you a more vibrant, commanding presence that will demand attention from your audience.

Steve Jobs at an Apple presentation
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs utilizes his large floor space while remaining open to the audience.

Eye contact

Eye contact is a pivotal part of communication in Western culture. The unspoken understanding is that when a person avoids eye contact, it’s because they’re lying or nervous. When presenting, eye contact is vital in order to ensure your audience trusts the validity of what you’re saying.

A good trick is to pick out three people in the audience: one in the center of the audience, one in the left corner, and one in the right corner; Alternate between them.

Some will tell you all you need to do is pick a few spots on the back wall of the room, but the problem here is that you’re not actually connecting with anyone, and that can make the presentation feel insincere or inhuman. Eye contact is vital for making a connection with your audience.

Never underestimate the importance of good posture

Superman having great posture wearing a cape
Superman, the epitome of cape wearers and good posture, has the puffed-out chest and arched back.

An upright, open posture can signify success, confidence, honesty, positivity, vibrancy—the list is practically endless. The point is: have good posture. If you often catch yourself slouching, try standing and walking as if you were wearing a cape; that’ll give you a good idea of how you should be standing.

Posture is especially important when presenting, because it’s directly correlated to being perceived as confident. Your audience doesn’t want to listen to someone who doesn’t appear to be resolute in the message he or she is presenting.

While having a well-designed PowerPoint presentation from a PowerPoint specialist can go a long way in creating a clear, convincing professional presentation, there’s no substitute for confidence. Body language can reveal a lot about a person, and when correctly mastered, can do a great deal to ensure a lasting impression on others. The most important thing is to relax, remain open, and be comfortable in your own skin.

3 Tips for an Effective Investor Presentation

There’s nothing to it, just walk in the room full of potential investors—don’t worry about your appearance, you’re probably fine just wearing a t-shirt—and say, “My idea is great. Trust me, just fork over the dough.” That’s always worked for us.

Okay, maybe there’s a little more to it than that.

Obviously a huge amount of time and effort is required for the formation of your business model, building resources, and the plethora of other milestones before one gets in a room full of angel investors. We won’t spend time on that vital aspect of the process, instead, we’ve got a few often overlooked tips for when you’re in the room with the investors.

Know Your Audience

Walking into an angel investor presentation blind will not only diminish from your presentation, it’s a huge risk. Know the people you’ll be presenting to: their educational background, what fields they’ve worked in, what businesses they’ve been a part of. Identify the ones that you feel your pitch will resonate closely with and cater your presentation to them.

The Q&A session that will follow your presentation will play a key part in gaining the trust of potential investors. Anticipating what questions you may be asked will go a long way in putting their collective mind at ease. Predicting what questions you’ll be asked ties back to knowing your audience. Rehearse your responses to potential questions just as you would your actual presentation.

Be confident, Assertive, and Passionate

These are important qualities when giving any presentation, but especially in an investor presentation, where the sell is often difficult. Presenting an assured front is imperative to show that you truly believe your pitch.

But you need to go further than just showing the likely success of your business model, you need to be passionate about your idea, about your product. Don’t forget that your investors are investing in the financial viability of your idea, not the idea itself; still, don’t underestimate the selling power of visibly caring about what you’re doing. It can go a long way in building confidence in potential investors.

Be particularly assertive with those you’ve researched and identified as likely to resonate with your idea. They deserve extra attention because of the higher probability of investing.

Prove that your idea is unique

It’s vital to identify a specific problem and your proposed solution to it (i.e. your business idea.) And remember to show, not tell. Rather than saying, “this is a unique idea and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity;” it’s much more impactful to present concrete examples and evidence showing why that’s true.

Explain why your business model will succeed where others have failed, what makes your management team distinguished and capable, and tell a compelling story. Focus on the who, what, and why.

Investor presentations may seem daunting, but if you’ve put in the adequate time and effort (and followed these tips on crafting a professional presentation) then showing the merits of your pitch should be a walk in the park.

Stand-Up Comedians: Using Body Language to Convey a Message

Despite often appearing to be the least serious people on the planet, stand-up comedians have a lot to teach us about the visual aspect of presenting. Stand-up comedy blends performance art and public speaking, and these comedians must work tirelessly to perfect their presentation skills in order to not make a fool of themselves on stage.

These comedians incorporate drastic body language, visual aids and creative nonverbal communication to get their “message” across. Here are a few impressive examples that can teach anyone giving a professional presentation a lot about how to wow an audience.

 

Here is an excellent display of nonverbal communication by one of the most vibrant comedians around at the very start of his career. His entire joke, which lasts more than three minutes, consists of just a couple sentences wrapped up by a three-word punchline. If you take a look at our previous post discussing how to use body language to improve your presenting skills, you’ll see that the majority of how we communicate is nonverbal. Though it may seem ludicrous, Jim Carrey uses his body language as a powerful communication tool, and relies almost exclusively on it during his performance.

 

Creating a unique persona for yourself is a highly effective way to make a lasting impression on people you encounter. While in the business world, especially when giving a professional presentation, a positive, confident persona will most likely be the best strategy, comedian Zach Galifianakis has mastered the art of creating a whole persona–an easily recognizable character–in so subtle a way that he can seemingly stand there, say practically nothing, and have people rolling on the ground laughing.

Syncing your talking points with your presentation tool (your PowerPoint presentation) is vital in order to get your message across clearly and concisely. Dimitri Martin is a master of visual comedy, and here he is showing something very similar to a slide-by-slide presentation. Pay careful attention to Martin’s timing and momentum, especially the way he builds anticipation for the point he’s about to make.

When giving a professional presentation, we always recommend having a professionally designed PowerPoint in your arsenal. Simply showing up to the presentation with a PowerPoint presentation (no matter how good it is) will be quite enough. Knowing how to blend your talking points, body movements and your visual accompaniment is the key to a seamless presentation.

When crafting your presentation to compliment your PowerPoint–or the other way around–it’s important to practice and coordinate carefully. Think about timing, simplicity, and highlighting your key points so that they’ll make an impact on your audience.

If You Don’t Want To Spend Money On Yourself, Why Would Others?

In early 2004, when I was 19 or 20, I came up with this crazy idea to create a website where people would essentially log in to a virtual version of their real lives. People would’ve uploaded their own profiles with their own bio and interests. They’d choose to connect or not connect with other users in the network. They’d upload pictures they took on their recent trips or parties and then tag their friends. People would have been able to play games, watch videos, or read articles and then share them with the world with one simple click! I honestly think that idea could’ve changed the world like never before. The problem was that the cost to incorporate my idea was around $1000. As a student I really didn’t have much to live off of, so I decided not to go through with it.

Imagine if that was Mark Zuckerberg’s story. Imagine if he decided not to spend that initial $1000 in Facebook (or “thefacebook” as it was called back then). Zuckerberg knew that $1000 wasn’t a cost, but an investment. Knowing the difference between the two is one of the most useful tools in any business.

Investing in the way your company presents itself is one of the most tactical ploys of investment as a whole. Whether you are pitching to a client, raising capital or presenting to a group of your peers and employees, a well-crafted presentation will make your message more memorable. When people remember your name or company, they will reference you when they need expertise in your field. It really comes down to simple math: Better presentation = Increase in sales.

At SlideGenius, our presentation experts see on average over 200 PRESENTATIONS PER MONTH and have years of professional experience creating captivating PowerPoint presentations for a wide variety of clients. We can update an existing presentation or build one from scratch, leveraging your brand. We work with you to ensure that the message you want to get across to your audience is communicated as effectively as possible.

If you do’t have a professionally designed PowerPoint Presentation you’re undeniably leaving business on the table. Many sales people have reported an increase of up to 25-50% in closed sales simply by providing a highly visual presentation.

With SlideGenius custom PowerPoint development services you will immediately:

  • Enhance your reputation.
  • Increase the customer’s confidence and trust.
  • Maximize your conversion ratio.
  • Increase your sales leads.
  • Raise Capital.
  • Increase your sales volume.
  • Decrease your operating costs.
  • Get the right message across.

According to a survey by Accenture, nearly 90 percent of sales executives said that they are not as good at PowerPoint as they should be and that they would sell more products if their message was more effectively conveyed. Stop looking at enhancing your presentations as a cost, and start investing in yourself. If you don’t want to spend money on yourself, why would others?


The Many Faces of President Obama as a Public Speaker

President Barack Obama speaks at Cairo University in Cairo, Thursday, June 4, 2009. In his speech, President Obama called for a 'new beginning between the United States and Muslims', declaring that 'this cycle of suspicion and discord must end'. Official White House Photo by Chuck KennedyA great public speaker is versatile. Despite one’s personal feelings about the 44th president, it’s hard to deny Barack Obama‘s prowess as a public speaker. The ability to have his range, seamlessly transitioning from humbly grave in the face of tragedy to the lighthearted performer at the White House Correspondents Dinner is a pivotal reason for his popularity and perhaps his greatest strength as an effective leader.

The New York Observer did an excellent analysis of Obama as a public speaker in February of 2008, when he was a candidate vying for the office he now holds. Many professors interviewed about the president’s oratory skills liken him to past famous speech makers, such as John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.

Linguist Geoff Nunberg credits much of the president’s excellent speaking skills to controlling his hand and body movements in a way that accentuates what he is saying without going overboard. Nunberg also cites Obama’s controlled, limited vocal range, which allows him to “convey passion without exhibiting it.”

Another excellent piece appeared on Forbes.com titled “Barack Obama: A Master Class in Public Speaking.” Writer Carmine Gallo outlines three tools Obama uses in nearly every one of his speeches that makes him one of the most effective public speakers in modern American history.

Transcendence

The ability to tell a compelling anecdote and have audience members feel as though they’ve been transported to an entirely different place is a very effective skill for drawing out an emotional response in those you’re presenting to. If, for instance, you’re giving an investor presentation, and you have a powerful (or even mildly interesting) personal story about how your business or idea was formulated, tell it. This can foster a strong connection with audience members or potential investors, and can help them establish a sense of trust with you.

Repetition

The classic example of repetition is in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, but Obama also incorporates this into his speeches very well. Great public speaking has a rhythm to it, and it’s often likened to songwriting. This aspect of public speaking, the art behind it, can appear abstract, but all the great speakers have this almost poetic quality to their speeches that enable their presentations to inspire.

Gestures and Voice

As stated above, Obama’s voice and movements are very controlled and deliberate. He doesn’t shy away from communicating with body language, and he frequently gets visibly emotional during speeches, but he always does so in a very meaningful manner. He appears to be a master of manipulating his mannerisms and emotions in order to elicit a response from an audience, which can take lengthy practice in speaking in public.

Personally, what impresses me about Obama as a public speaker is his ability to work a room. To read exactly how to approach each audience and to cater himself to them accordingly. This video starts near the end of his comedic speech at the 2013 correspondents dinner, where after a hilarious speech that had the whole crowd going, he abruptly transitioned to a grave, heartfelt speech about the recent Boston bombings. This stark change of pace could only be done in such a natural way by a truly deft presenter.

Using Statistics and Metaphors Effectively in Your PowerPoints

Did you know that every person recorded in history that has been able to lick their elbow has had an IQ characterized as that of a genius?  While the previous statement is a complete fabrication of my imagination, it doesn’t negate the fact that you just thought of licking your elbow to see if you were a genius.

Statistics, metaphors, pictures, videos they all make us think in very specific and useful ways. Knowing how to manage these presentational aids can be what makes your next presentation sound like if you have been taking private classes with Tony Robins.

Presentations bogged down by statistics, overwhelming data, and technical topics can send your audience dozing off in minutes, but never fear, there are a few techniques that can help you convey the true significance of what you’re presenting.

When it comes to data, simplify and get creative.

If you’re presenting your data with a table, you might as well be force feeding sleeping pills to your audience. Instead of cramming all your data on to one page, give each statistic its own page, accompany each with a visual, and present them as individual, easy-to-digest morsels. If you have a slide crammed full with numbers, chances are nobody is going to take anything away from it.

Why should we care?

Statistics can captivate when presented effectively, they just need to be framed in such a way that makes your audience understand their significance. Paint a picture that depicts their relevancy. An excellent example of this was done during the 2012 presidential race when there was much to-do over the net worth of President Obama and of Governor Romney.

Adjusting for inflation, George Washington was the United States' richest president of all time.Obama

While it was revealed that Obama was among the poorest presidents ever elected and Romney was among the most wealthy, their combined wealth didn’t even come close to that of George Washington’s, when adjusting for inflation. Framing statistics in this way helps to give life to numbers that can often be monotonous and sedating, because practical application and historical context can make them much more relatable.

Metaphors, metaphors, metaphors.

If you’ve got a tough sell or a hard point to make, a metaphor can often help paint a picture for your audience to wrap their heads around. Metaphors can evoke an emotional response, which is very desirable when presenting potentially dry information, such as an investment opportunity.

Even better, Visual metaphors

When we listen to something, only 3 percent of our brain neurons are engaged, but when we see an image, that number jumps up to 30 percent. As far as engaging an audience on a chemical level, and ensuring that they retain the information you wish to convey, a visual representation of the conclusion your presentation seeks to reach will be, literally, 10 times more effective.

What you talk about is meaningless unless you know how to express it. It all comes down to two factors: how you say it and how you show it. Whether the topic is stem cell research or peanut butter protein bars, the audience will only care based off of how you present what you are presenting.

Harness the power of these presentational aids, and you will rule the world. Not really, but you will definitely have captivated your audience.

SOURCES:

http://www.slideshare.net/CarlKwan/how-to-present-data-and-statistics-visually

http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/14/george-washington-hoover-jfk-obama-personal-finance-10-richest-presidents_slide_5.html

http://soappresentations.com/the-value-of-metaphor-in-business-presentations/

Controlling Your Physiology for Your Presentation

Can you guess what this is describing?

Your hands are disgustingly warm and sweaty, your heart is beating at frightening speeds, you knees are weak and you feel like you’re going to collapse. Your fingers can’t seem to stop pinching each other. Each breath you take is getting progressively harder and weaker. Those butterflies in your stomach (the ones that everyone talks about in romantic movies) seem to be flying viciously into places they’re not supposed to. In a matter of minutes, you seem to have developed a stutter and the ability to crack your voice like a pubescent thirteen-year-old boy.

In medical terms, it’s called glossophobia, but for those of us without PHDs, it is what most people feel before speaking in public.

Let’s be honest, nobody wants to wants to sit through twenty minutes of some guy twitching and sweating through a presentation about why their software is the latest and greatest. Controlling your physiology for your presentation is crucial if you want your presentation to have any value to your audience.

You may not be a presentation expert, but you can certainly train yourself to be able to give an interesting and effective corporate presentation. Here are a few tips for that:

Find a way to relax right before your presentation. Take deep breaths, wash your hands with warm water, listen to your pump-up song (Kanye West seems to do the trick for me), or stretch. Find something that gets rid of your nerves but keeps you focused at the same time.

Be the body for your presentation. Let your fingers point, your hands wave, and your shoulders shrug. Movement is good; it keeps the audience focused on you. Just make sure to have it under control. Don’t be excessive with it. Pinpoint three people in the audience: one on each far corner of your vantage point, and one smack in the middle. As you speak, alternate making eye contact with each. This will help you know where to look and keep any nervous movements away.

Smile and laugh; they’re both contagious. It is instinctive for people to smile at a smile. Since you are in control of the mood in the room while you presenting, use it to your advantage. Smile and look happy, and soon enough your audience will mirror that. Speaking to a public that seems genuinely interested and happy to hear what you are saying will ease your nerves and relax your body. This in turn will make your presentation more human and organic.

Prepare for perfection. In his Art of War, Sun Tzu explains how “every battle is won before it is ever fought.” Practice every scenario, every word and movement. A LOT! If your presentation is interactive with the audience or includes questions, anticipate them. Use them to your advantage. Practice in front of anyone and everyone. Time yourself. You can even record yourself for critique. Know what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it, when you’re going to say it, and how people will respond to it. Do this, and you will have won the battle.

Sun-Tzu-Strategy

Remembering Life Before PowerPoint

I’ve been doing a bit of research today to see how old PowerPoint is. It looks like PowerPoint, originally Presenter, has been around since 1988. But it used to be just linear and without much features back then. Animations and transitions started with the 1997 version. All throughout high school until college, I probably sat through hundreds of lectures and reports in PowerPoint format. When I entered the work force, PowerPoint has always been essential in all my office jobs. Sometimes, we wouldn’t even use it for presentation purposes- PowerPoint makes it so easy to make storyboards and hand outs. If you want your hand outs or notes to be more visual or even just to look different compared to your usual Word document, go to this presenting tool, print, and go!

PowerPoint has been so useful and widely used in presenting that I started to ask myself, how was life before PowerPoint? I’ll never know how it was for a lot of people, but let me share to you what it was like to me. I wasn’t born yet when PowerPoint was created, but I grew up in the Philippines in the mid 90s, and lectures meant the teacher would write on the chalk board. On the first day of school and on some special school events, the blackboard would be filled with greetings and drawings made with bright colored chalk. It has been natural for the first part of the lecture to be written on the board with good penmanship, and the latter part would be a little more sloppy because our teacher’s hand is probably shaking from writing so much. Not only that, her hair had a lot of chalk dust too. Eventually, lectures progressed to manila paper or cardboard.There were a lot to activities for us to learn in fun forms like games. Our reports would be in the form of skits, songs or dances or artworks. It stimulated our minds to not just work on the content of the lesson, but on how to keep the presentation or report fun and interesting enough to keep the class awake. Then it went on to using transparency films and overhead projectors. Boring, boring, boring. I remember back in high school, our teacher brought a transparency to help us visualize a character named Dona Geronima, who was so fat and got stuck in a cave. The class was so boring and almost all of my classmates were daydreaming. I was seated next to the projector and out of boredom, I tore a piece of my notebook and shaped it to a party hat and put it on the transparency without the teacher noticing. I kept cutting shapes from my notebook and added it to the transparency, having a chicken leg on her hand, confetti, presents, balloons, etc. My classmates were starting to notice and it woke them up, passing on pieces of paper to add to it. Our teacher eventually noticed, but instead of reprimanding us, he laughed and gave us the transparency film. I don’t know, I guess he liked creativity, haha!

Anyway, so a little after freshman year of high school, teachers and students were using PowerPoint. I’m so sure everybody was grateful. No more shaky hands from writing forever, no more chalk dust. Everything can now be typed and saved and can be made in less time. Students don’t need to take notes too if the teacher’s willing to send the PowerPoint hand outs. The adaptation of PowerPoint in our lives has proved to be beneficial, yet here I am thinking now that it could have done some damage too.

Don’t get me wrong, I love PowerPoint, the heck- I have a job right now thanks to PowerPoint. But I also think that PowerPoint, like most of technology, has made us less creative. It made presenting easier and more basic. Just type the words, click on a little animation (or auto animate if you’re extra lazy) and you’re good to go. We all think we can get away with it without putting much effort- and we do. It just became easy and we think the basic output we create is already enough. And that’s true, just a little effort can get you through sometimes because a lot of it was already created by the computer. Unlike before, we you had to put a lot of effort and thinking out of the box to keep the lecture or presentation creative or interesting.

So what’s the point and moral of this entry? Nothing really. I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just letting out my brain farts. Maybe I’m making a big deal of people being less creative because of technology. Maybe I’m just dramatic because I’m hungry. I really have no idea. Or maybe I’m trying to get others to put more effort and bring in some creativity to their presentations and keep it beyond basic. Compared to the efforts of manually writing your lecture or presentation with chalk or a marker, a lot of the work was already done by your computer. Think of more ways to keep it interesting, may it be in the content of your presentation or in the manner by which you present.

10 slide design tips for producing powerful and effective presentations

By Guest Contributor

September 19, 2006, 7:00am PDT

By Garr Reynolds

#1: Keep it simple

 

PowerPoint uses slides with a horizontal, or Landscape, orientation. The software was designed as a convenient way to display graphical information that would support the speaker and supplement the presentation. The slides themselves were never meant to be the star of the show. (The star, of course, is your audience.) People came to hear you and be moved or informed (or both) by you and your message. Don’t let your message and your ability to tell a story get derailed by slides that are unnecessarily complicated, busy, or full of what Edward Tufte calls “chart junk.” Nothing in your slide should be superfluous, ever.

Your slides should have plenty of white space, or negative space. Do not feel compelled to fill empty areas on your slide with your logo or other unnecessary graphics or text boxes that do not contribute to better understanding. The less clutter you have on your slide, the more powerful your visual message will become.

#2 Limit bullet points and text

 

Your presentation is for the benefit of the audience. But boring an audience with bullet point after bullet point is of little benefit to them. Which brings us to the issue of text. The best slides may have no text at all. This may sound insane given the dependency of text slides today, but the best PowerPoint slides will be virtually meaningless without the narration (that is you). Remember, the slides are meant to support the narration of the speaker, not make the speaker superfluous.

Many people often say something like this: “Sorry I missed your presentation. I hear it was great. Can you just send me your PowerPoint slides?” But if they are good slides, they will be of little use without you. Instead of a copy of your PowerPoint slides, it is far better to prepare a written document that highlights your content from the presentation and expands on that content. Audiences are much better served receiving a detailed, written handout as a takeaway from the presentation, rather than a mere copy of your PowerPoint slides. If you have a detailed handout or publication for the audience to be passed out after your talk, you need not feel compelled to fill your PowerPoint slides with a great deal of text.

We’ll talk more about this in the delivery section below, but as long as we are talking about text, please remember to never, ever turn your back on the audience and read text from the slide word for word.

 

This slide is not unusual, but it is not a visual aid, it is more like an eye chart.

 

Try to avoid text-heavy (and sleep inducing) slides like this one.

 

Aim for something like this simple slide above.

 

And this is even better.

#3: Limit transitions and builds (animation)

 

Use object builds and slide transitions judiciously. Object builds (also called animations), such as bullet points, should not be animated on every slide. Some animation is a good thing, but stick to the most subtle and professional (similar to what you might see on the evening TV news broadcast). A simple Wipe Left-to-Right (from the Animations menu) is good for a bullet point, but a Move or Fly, for example, is too tedious and slow (and yet, is used in many presentations today). Listeners will get bored quickly if they are asked to endure slide after slide of animation. For transitions between slides, use no more than two or three types of transition effects and do not place transition effects between all slides.

#4: Use high quality graphics

 

Use high quality graphics, including photographs. You can take your own high quality photographs with your digital camera, purchase professional stock photography, or use the plethora of high quality images available online. (But be cautious of copyright issues.) Never simply stretch a small, low-resolution photo to make it fit your layout–doing so will degrade the resolution even further.

Avoid using PowerPoint Clip Art or other cartoonish line art. Again, if it is included in the software, your audience has seen it a million times before. It may have been interesting in 1993, but today the inclusion of such clip art often undermines the professionalism of the presenter. There are exceptions, of course, and not all PowerPoint art is dreadful, but use it carefully and judiciously.

I often use images of people in my slides, as photography of people tends to help the audience connect with the slide on a more emotional level. If the photographic image is secondary in importance, then I decrease the opacity and add a Gaussian Blur or motion filter in Photoshop. If the photographic image is the primary area I want the audience to notice (such as a picture of a product), then the image can be more pronounced and little (or no) text is needed.

 

Try to avoid cheesy clip art like this.

 

This edited stock photograph is more effective and professional.

 

In this title slide, the image is primary.

 

In this slide from the same presentation, the image is secondary and pushed to the back by editing it first in Photoshop.

#5: Have a visual theme but avoid using PowerPoint templates

 

You clearly need a consistent visual theme throughout your presentation, but most templates included in PowerPoint have been seen by your audience countless times (and besides, the templates are not all that great to begin with). Your audience expects a unique presentation with new (at least to them) content; otherwise, why would they be attending your talk? No audience will be excited about a cookie-cutter presentation, and we must therefore shy away from any supporting visuals, such as the ubiquitous PowerPoint Design Template, that suggests your presentation is formulaic or prepackaged.

You can make your own background templates, which will be more tailored to your needs. You can then save the PowerPoint file as a Design Template (.pot) and the new template will appear among your standard Microsoft templates for your future use. You can also purchase professional templates online.

#6: Use appropriate charts

 

Always be asking yourself, “How much detail do I need?” Presenters are usually guilty of including too much data in their onscreen charts. There are several ways to display your data in graphic form; here are a few things to keep in mind:

Pie charts. Used to show percentages. Limit the slices to 4-6 and contrast the most important slice either with color or by exploding the slice.

 

Vertical bar charts. Used to show changes in quantity over time. Best if you limit the bars to 4-8.

 

Horizontal bar charts. Used to compare quantities. For example, comparing sales figures among the four regions of the company.

 

Line charts. Used to demonstrate trends. For example, here is a simple line chart showing that our sales have gone up every year. The trend is good. The arrow comes in later to underscore the point: Our future looks good!

 

In general, tables are well suited for side-by-side comparisons of quantitative data.

 

However, tables can lack impact on a visceral level. If you want to show how your contributions are significantly higher than two other parties, for example, it would be best to show that in the form of a bar chart (below). But if you’re trying to downplay the fact that your contributions are lower than others, a table will display that information in a less dramatic or emotional way.

 

#7: Use color well

 

Color evokes feelings. Color is emotional. The right color can help persuade and motivate. Studies show that color usage can increase interest and improve learning comprehension and retention.

You do not need to be an expert in color theory, but it’s good for business professionals to know at least a bit on the subject. Colors can be divided into two general categories: cool (such as blue and green) and warm (such as orange and red). Cool colors work best for backgrounds, as they appear to recede away from us into the background. Warm colors generally work best for objects in the foreground (such as text) because they appear to be coming at us. It is no surprise, then, that the most ubiquitous PowerPoint slide color scheme includes a blue background with yellow text. You do not need to feel compelled to use this color scheme, although you may choose to use a variation of those colors.

If you will be presenting in a dark room (such as a large hall), a dark background (dark blue, gray, etc.) with white or light text will work fine. But if you plan to keep most of the lights on (which is highly advisable), a white background with black or dark text works much better. In rooms with a good deal of ambient light, a screen image with a dark background and light text tends to washout, but dark text on a light background will maintain its visual intensity a bit better.

Learn more:

  • PresentationPro.com has some great Flash tutorials, including one on color.
  • Go to the CreativePro.com to learn more about color.
  • Dummies.com has a good short article on how to use the Color Schemes> in PowerPoint.

#8: Choose your fonts well

 

Fonts communicate subtle messages in and of themselves, which is why you should choose fonts deliberately. Use the same font set throughout your entire slide presentation and use no more than two complementary fonts (e.g., Arial and Arial Bold). Make sure you know the difference between a serif font (e.g., Times New Roman) and a sans-serif font (e.g., Helvetica or Arial).

Serif fonts were designed to be used in documents filled with lots of text. They’re said to be easier to read at small point sizes, but for onscreen presentations, the serifs tend to get lost due to the relatively low resolution of projectors. Sans- serif fonts are generally best for PowerPoint presentations, but try to avoid the ubiquitous Helvetica. I often choose to use Gill Sans, as it is somewhere in between a serif and a sans-serif font and is professional yet friendly and “conversational.” Regardless of what font you choose, make sure the text can be read from the back of the room.

 

Times

 

Arial black; Arial

 

#9: Use video or audio

 

Use video and audio when appropriate. Using video clips to show concrete examples promotes active cognitive processing, which is the natural way people learn. You can use video clips within PowerPoint without ever leaving the application or tuning on a VCR. Using a video clip not only will illustrate your point better, it will also serve as a change of pace, thereby increasing the interest of your audience.

You can use audio clips (such as interviews) as well. But avoid using the cheesy sound effects that are included in PowerPoint (such as the sound of a horn or applause when transitioning slides). The use of superfluous sound effects attached to animations is a sure way to lose credibility with your audience.

#10: Spend time in the slider sorter

 

According to the Segmentation Principle of multimedia learning theory, people comprehend better when information is presented in small chunks or segments. By getting out of the Slide view and into the Slide Sorter view, you can see how the logical flow of your presentation is progressing. In this view, you may decide to break up one slide into, say, two or three slides so that your presentation has a more natural and logical flow or process. You’ll also be able to capture more of the gestalt of your entire presentation from the point of view of your audience. You will be able to notice more extraneous pieces of visual data that can be removed to increase visual clarity and improve communication.

 

The Slide Sorter view in PowerPoint

Garr Reynolds is currently Associate Professor of Management at Kansai Gaidai University, where he teaches Marketing, Global Marketing, and Multimedia Presentation Design. Garr is active in the Japanese community and can often be found presenting on subjects concerning design, branding, and effective corporate communications. In addition to his Web site, he maintains a blog, Presentation Zen, which offers insights into professional presentation design.