Power Presentations

By Hannah Wallace November 30, 2007

Flying graphics, flashing words and pulsing lasers would be banned if Debby Steele were named PowerPoint god. “You want to get the point across without all the show,” says Steele, director of marketing and communications at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and a 12-year PowerPoint consultant. “You don’t need glitz to do that.”

Steele has watched and given hundreds of presentations and says novice PowerPoint creators make common mistakes including cramming too many words on a page, using too many fonts and her biggest pet peeve, animated words. “It drives me bananas flicking in and out,” says Steele. “Words should be an anchor.”

Other no-no’s include reading the screen verbatim and worse yet, turning around and reading the screen with your back to the audience. Slides should have minimal text and enhance what you’re saying. When in doubt, Steele says less is always more. “It (PowerPoint) is awesome if used right and prepared properly.”

Audience Pleasers

Steele suggests seven ways to make your next presentation one that connects with your audience.

1. Show you care with research and preparation. Know your audience and its needs. “Take the focus off yourself; think about what you’re going to say to help them,” says Steele. “PowerPoint should be your back-up, use it as an outline.”

2. Wow your audience with knowledge, not design wizardry. “Don’t use a zillion different fonts,” says Steele. It’s better to stick to two.

3. Use a master slide or standardized template. “It’ll save you a lot of time and headache later on,” says Steele. Without a master slide, consistent design changes will require adjustments on each slide. Big companies should invest in a professionally designed template, Steele says. “It’s your first critical impression.”

4. Incorporate corporate colors and logos. Consider customized bullets for impact. Use proper and consistent punctuation; no periods at the end of bullets, for example. Steele uses the Selby Gardens logo as a bullet in her presentations.

5. Embrace the 7 by 7 rule. “Seven lines with seven words a line,” Steele says. “It’s not supposed to be cluttered. You want the audience to be able to read it.”

6. Lose the lasers. Unless you’re Darth Vader, leave the laser at home because your audience will become more concerned about getting hit with the beam than what you’re saying. Use an overlay to highlight a concept or word—a screen shot that’s identical with the exception of a highlighted word.

7. Arrive early to practice your presentation with the equipment in the room you’ll be using. “I’ve seen so many presentations derailed because the equipment doesn’t work,” Steele says.

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