Presenting to clients has gone the next level. Some have even hired creative people for video presentations. But let’s admit it — still, nothing beats presenting using Microsoft’s popular software, PowerPoint.
I am a digital graphic artist. Based from my years doing business with clients, years of creative exercises from corporate companies, and doing pro bono designs for my friends, let me share what I think makes PowerPoint presentations work.
Today’s Tough 5, I’ll be pointing out 5 things to keep in mind when designing a PowerPoint presentation. I know I’m not really the “authority” when it comes to this and I am not the best graphic artist out there but let me just ask you to try these five pointers out and see if it helps you when you plan to create your next presentation soon.
- Plan Ahead
Create an outline. I usually use text editors for this initial step. Putting it in an outline — by jotting it down on paper or typing it up in Word or Notepad — would give you an easier view of how the presentation would go.
Usually, this step will make you see if there’s a need for section dividers. You will also visualize the formatting if there are things that need to be enumerated.
On my end, I do the outlining to see how many template designs to prepare. For example, there might be a slide with bulleted entries. Some slides don’t need a title. Some slides just need only the title. That’s important to me because I don’t usually use the software’s given template. I design one per type of slide.
However, I’ll say that it’s fine if you skip the outlining method and just go on with doing the presentation. I also skip it most of the times, especially when a client needs a quick turnaround. But just remember, if you do the outlining right, it will result to a smooth flow of presentation.
If you are working with other people on this presentation, I would suggest not skipping this initial step. Because this is a team work, there’s a need to coordinate with other presenters. They have some of the needed copies (texts and research materials) and they might have a different approach on how their part will be presented.
I remember during college when I prepared a presentation for our group. Everyone was so busy that there’s no time to meet up and discuss how the presentation will run. So I just asked them to write the outline of their parts in a sheet of paper. I messed up the order of the reporting. During the presentation, we have to go back and forth slides that we looked unprepared.
- Deliver a Trademark
During the planning process, make it possible to keep something that’s unique on a series of presentations: A trademark that when your audience see it, they’ll realize that it was you or your company who worked on the presentation.
A formal presentation is easy. You just have to show the company’s logo on some of the slides. Plus, use the company’s color scheme (or at least create one based from the colors of the company logo). The giant company Apple has their unique way of doing their presentations: Black background, 1-2 images per slide, consistent font. I could just see a slide and I would know that it is Apple’s.
If you are a student (or at least going to present in a not-so-formal event), it’ll be a bit difficult but not limited, which leaves you an infinite area for creativity. However, if you’re in a “design-all-you-want” mode, it takes a lot of guts to not overdo it. It’s like a buffet. You’re in a room with all the food that you can eat but you can’t really eat all of it.
Here are some rules to at least lessen your itch and decide a diet on the style that you’ll be using.
Rule # 1: BE CONSISTENT.
What really is your style? If you want a green color scheme, go with that. You want a Comic Sans font style? This font is overrated and overly informal, but if that’s what you like… go with it. Do anything you want (hopefully, in moderation) but be consistent.
Being consistent means same font styles (comic sans for slide titles and Arial for slide copies; or comic sans on all text across the presentation), same colors throughout the presentation, etc. Being consistent will aid you in delivering a clear and tidy message. A consistent formatting for the titles across the presentation makes your audience keep in mind that that formatting defines each slide’s title for example.
However, consistency has a big chance to make a presentation a bit repetitious and boring. Now, this is a test to your creativity. Here’s the second rule.
Rule # 2: BE CONSISTENT BUT DON’T BE BORING
I have this style in college where I used colored textboxes to enumerate lists. It was an easy trick that my other classmates haven’t encountered or haven’t done yet. (They usually copy and paste an outline of texts into a big textbox.) Combined with a cascading animation effect, it went really good. What the instructor really appreciates is how I manually put the texts inside each box, which looked like it took some effort to make my presentation visually palatable. After some presentations, I encountered some of my classmates mimic that style. It felt weird that I’m suspecting them to do what I’m doing but hey, I started a trend. My other classmates associated me to that style that they thought I did them a favor and helped create their presentations.
I thought of a way to deviate from the norm. I went into using great creative wallpapers as backgrounds (which were appropriate to the topic I’m reporting), text animations, etc.
The best presentations that I did that time were the ones with the sensationalized titles. That was in 2005-2009 so it is typically an early version of “memes”. For example, when we reported about “Autism” for our Organizational Communication class, instead of just plainly stating “Autism” in the cover page, I instead use this title: “Who Do You Think is Normal? A PowerPoint presentation for the report on Autism”.
This definitely picked their curiosity.
My point is you have the ability to leave an impression using your presentations. Let them feel how your presentations are different from the others. Show them how it is better.
- Consider who your audience are
One of the goals in presenting is to get the attention of your audience and keep them listening until the last slide. Your audience will get bored. It may be that they are just not in the mood to listen. They might not have enough sleep the night before. Whatever it is, it shouldn’t be about your presentation.
Having a visual aid gives a big chance to make your audience get excited to what you are about to say. If you’re a good public speaker, then that’s good for you. If you’re an introvert and very uncomfortable at speaking in front of your classmates, then use your presentations to your advantage. Know their interests. Now you can do a quick research about their “likes” using the social media. If most of them likes memes. Then find relatable memes about your topic. You’ll think a lot of things when you check out what your classmates “like”.
What I did before was to use PowerPoint for a game. It was a simple one but I can see that my instructor liked it. In a slide, I put in seven different colored textboxes and numbered them. My report that time was about the narrative theory of communication. The theory states that we are born narrators: That we tell stories as we communicate. So, I linked slides to the boxes and populated the slides with questions that they’ll answer in a way that they’ll going to share their stories/experiences. I had 3 people choose one from the box. Upon saying their chosen box, I’ll be clicking that box that will show what the question is. The class was entertained.
- Keep it minimal.
Be simple and systemic. Again, stay consistent. The biggest problem that we’ve been doing all this time is that we bombard our presentations with a lot of unnecessary objects and animations. Some overload a page with a lot of pictures without checking if they’re aligned well or if the page looks easier to understand. Some apply animations with “big movements” that it is better to have rendered a video presentation instead.
What’s important here is the content. Use the presentation to communicate your message.
I suggest using minimal effects. Fade in and fade to black is my favorite slide transition effects. It is subtle but effective. Cascading fade and fly in/out is the best for animations. You want to make the contents’ animations fast. It is awkward when you want to start reading the contents of the slide but the words haven’t stopped rotating yet. Well, best way is to have a “fade in” slide transition and no object animation at all.
I suggest you use fewer words. If you can keep it to 3-5 words per slide, the better. I hate presenters who just read everything that’s in their PowerPoint presentation. They’re too dumb to realize that that makes them look unprepared and well, dumb. Show your audience that you know what you’re talking about. Show just a word per slide and bring everything that you know using just that one word: Some words, then pictures.
- Proofread your presentation
You are more credible with less typographical error [better if nothing at all]. Proofread everything: animations, copies, colors, font styles. A lot of people skip doing this. But you know, this is the most important part to get a good professional impression. When you’re in front of your peers showing your presentation, the last thing that you shouldn’t encounter are misspelled words, wrong image used, and wrong arrangement of slides.
So go, check every slide again… Back from the cover. Do the necessary revisions. Then proofread it again. Do it while you have the time.
When you’re super sure, wear your best smile.
Goodluck to your presentation.