I’m back on the speaking circuit after a hiatus due to serving as the Program Chair for last summer’s FDCC Annual meeting. And, that’s reminded me of a number of useful tips for preparing PowerPoint or Keynote presentations for use in those presentations.
1. Less is More
You don’t need 25-50 slides. Your audience is there to listen to you, not read your slides. Slides illustrate. Slides remind the audience (and you) where you are. For a 30 minute presentation in November, we used seven slides, not counting the title slide – two were video clips. For another program last month had four substantive slides for about 30 minutes allocated to two speakers. At the Winter Meeting, the presentation I’m participating in currently has five “substantive” slides.
As Steve Jobs said:
“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
2. Case and Policy Quotes Belong in the Paper, not the Slides
There are few things as deadly as trying to read 12-16 point type on a slide projected on a screen 50 feet away from the viewer. Don’t quote the policy or cases in your slides. It’s acceptable to post case citations – that can help the audience write them down, but quotes should be left in the written materials.
3. Write it Yourself; Don’t Have Your Assistant or Paralegal Write It
Too many of us delegate presentation writing to our assistants, a paralegal, or our firm’s marketing department. Do it yourself. If you don’t know how, learn. PowerPoint is not that difficult (and your staff can take care of the more technical aspects after you write it), and Apple’s Keynote is even easier. The problem with presentations drafted by others is they are not your presentation. They tend to be mechanical summaries of the paper. They do not flow with your speaking style as well as they should.
4. Avoid Gratuitous Graphics.
Google initially achieved fame because it used a plain white screen, not the overly busy screen used by Yahoo and other long-vanquished competitors (anyone remember Alta Vista?). Just because something is there, does not mean you have to use it.
Microsoft has infected PowerPoint with a dozens of clip art illustrations, dozens of stock photos and the like. Don’t use them simply because they are there. Use illustrations and graphics to make a point.
5. Test, Test, Test.
Test your presentation. Don’t just test it in your office. Test it where you’ll be giving the presentation on the equipment you will use. Do you have video or audio? Did you know there is more than one way to embed video and audio in a PowerPoint? Did you know one of those ways doesn’t work when you move the presentation to a different computer? Do you know whether your video is set to start on the slide transition, or whether it requires a second click?
You are giving a presentation to share your knowledge and improve your professional reputation. “Technical difficulties” during your speech defeat both goals.
6. Follow the Wisdom of the Military.
Several years ago an Army General became famous for banning PowerPoint in briefings in his command. As one Marine General said, “PowerPoint makes us stupid.” If you wish to read more, consider these articles:
7. Stay on Time.
Finally, one tip that isn’t directly computer presentation related. If you are given a specified time for your presentation, nail that time. Don’t go over. Don’t go appreciably under. Don’t stuff 45 minutes of material into a 30 minute presentation so you have to talk at 300 words per minute. If you want to be invited back by conference organizers, stay on time.
How do you stay on time? Rehearse. Time yourself. Write your presentation so you can invisibly modify the depth of your discussion on the fly.