Why do you think so many people still ask me to tell them how to make a good PowerPoint presentation? Surely by now everyone would have worked out that the typical corporate PowerPoint Presentations don’t work! Well apparently not, judging by the number of appalling examples I still see on a regular basis.
My theory for why bombardment by bullet point is still the norm, is simply that most people just copy what their peers and their bosses do. They never stop to ask themselves “Is there a better way“”
In this article I’d like to challenge your thinking and share some practical information and tips that will show you the secrets of how to make a good PowerPoint presentation.
NB: The advice I am giving hear relates specifically to a PowerPoint (other slide tools are available!) presentation that is designed to be used alongside a live presenter, not a presentation designed to be read by an individual reader, in their own time on webpage or intranet site without an simultaneous audio commentary.
Tip 1: Don’t start in PowerPoint.
Your visual aids should NEVER be the main part of your presentation. I’ll repeat that just in case you didn’t get it the first time. Visual aids should NEVER, EVER be the main part of your presentation. I always start by brainstorming ideas using a mindmap, but I know that doesn’t suit everyone. Some people use a word processing programme like Microsoft Word or Google Docs whilst others prefer post it notes. Whatever your preference, not starting with PowerPoint is a crucial first step in learning how to make a good PowerPoint presentation.
Slides are something you add in at the end to help clarify or reinforce your verbal messages and starting in PowerPoint makes you focus on the visuals when you should be concentrating on the verbal story. Plan your content and structure first. Write you outline (or sometimes a script) and then add the visuals. Steven Spielberg doesn’t start a new film project by getting the camera crew out to shoot pictures. Spielberg starts with the story and so should you.
Tip 2: Don’t use bullet Points.
Yes I know that everyone else does, or at least that’s how it seems but stop and ask yourself why they do it this way. Remember, they are just copying most other poor presenters, and they probably think they won’t be able to remember what they want to say unless it’s on a slide. Come on guys, you talk most of the time without a script. Repeat after me “My slides are not my script! Words on a screen are not visual aids, but pictures, simple charts & diagrams are!” And if you do need a memory jogger either use the images on the slide, make some notes or carry some small cue cards. For more ideas on this topic including examples of visually rich slides see my YouTube video on eradicating death by PowerPoint
Have you ever seen any reputable evidence that proves that bullet points increase audience recall or retention? No me neither because it doesn’t exist. On the contrary, Professor Richard E Meyer (in his book Multimedia Learning) published clear evidence that removing bullet points from a typical business PowerPoint actually increases recall by around 30%. Imagine being able to increase the effectiveness by almost a third. Isn’t that worth putting in a little extra effort
Tip 3: Don’t put multiple ideas on one slide
Back in stone age, when digital projectors and laptops didn’t exist and all we had were acetate transparencies and overhead projectors, slides were expensive to print and prepare so people used to cram as much information on each slide as they possibly could, presumably to save on expensive resources. Today that’s not the case, so why do people still cram 5, 6 or even seven different ideas on a single slide. Do yourself and your audience a favour and impose a rule that there must only ever be one idea per slide.
There are many theories to explain why slides with multiple ideas don’t work. why this is. The most current and sensible one to date, relates to the way our memory works. To get from senses to our long-term memory, information needs to pass through a mental bottleneck called “working memory”.
Think of it as the cognitive equivalent of your mouth. You can take in a huge amount of food and enjoy the process only if you take your time to taste, chew, savour and swallow. If somebody tried to force feed you the same amount of food, you would choke and most of it would never even reach your stomach.
By breaking your message up into bite sized pieces, supported by clear simple single idea visual aids, you dramatically increase the chance that your audience will digest, understand and remember the information.
Follow these three simple rules and I guarantee that your presentations will dramatically improve. Now you know how to make a good PowerPoint presentation. If you enjoyed this post and found it useful please share it with your friends using the social sharing buttons below and leave a comment. And if you didn’t enjoy it…. let’s just keep that our little secret.