PowerPoint 101: Ditch the Boring Bullet Points

Did you know PowerPoint has been around for 27 years? Just like you, it has experience and knowledge, and just like you, it has to up its game during presentations or people will tune out.

So, how do you avoid “PowerPoint puke?”

  • First of all, says Becky Pike Pluth, president and CEO of The Bob Pike Group, be visual. Get rid of boring bullet points and design your slides in a way that won’t put your participants to sleep. “Think of your PowerPoint like a billboard,” she says. With billboards, the rule of thumb is six words or less, and the messaging is smart without trying to be too clever. Besides, if you share line after line of information on a slide, people are going to read the copy rather than listen to you, and you might be tempted to read the information out loud (and talk TO your slides rather than your audience). Your slides aren’t a teleprompter. They’re simply a tool for you to introduce a point.
  • Another rule of thumb with billboard advertising is to keep it simple. This is also true with PowerPoint slides. Keep it to one key idea per slide if possible. The purpose of a slide is to serve as a visual aid—to ENHANCE the message. Ask yourself: What’s the main point, and why does it matter? Stay focused.    
  • When you do use copy, use big font, don’t use dark colored text on dark backgrounds or light colored text on light backgrounds, and NEVER use blue text on a red background (this is basically a headache waiting to happen!). When possible, use black on white or white on black. 
  • During a presentation, you have the opportunity to create something memorable and eye-catching. Take advantage of that. If you can “show rather than tell,” do it! Use images, graphics, video clips, or charts and graphs. Make sure, though, that the visuals reinforce what you want to say and aren’t just there as filler. Do the visuals help illustrate an example or story? Will they help people remember what you’re saying? According to Psychology Today, visual cues help us retrieve and retain information. According to their research, “The outcomes on visual learning make complete sense when you consider that our brain is mainly an image processor—much of our sensory cortex is devoted to vision—not a word processor. In fact, the part of the brain used to process words is quite small in comparison to the part that processes visual images.”
  • This might seem like common sense, but don’t stand right in front of the screen. After you introduce yourself, move to the left of the screen.
  • Always be ready with a Plan B in case of technical difficulties (bring print-outs or props along just in case). 

Most importantly, prepare well in advance and practice, practice, practice. When you really KNOW YOUR TOPIC and youre able to present your ideas clearly and persuasively, that packs more of a powerful punch than anything else. Bottom line? The best visual is you—sharing all of that valuable information. 

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