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  • Writer's pictureDr. Babette Sonntag

Six super easy tips for better powerpoint presentations




Man giving a presentation with PowerPoint
Giving interesting presentations is not that difficult

Perhaps you have already heard that or said it yourself: "I'm not good at Powerpoint!".

Often we've all gotten bored by seeing an infinite number of charts.

PowerPoint can be such a powerful and helpful communication tool. And not that complex if you don't claim to know and master every function.


In innovation projects we create lots of Powerpoints: for presentations, for documentation, for reading..., as a base for every form of communication.

You can find many tips on the technical functions of the PowerPoint program on the Internet, but in my opinion not that many really helpful tips on the structure of a presentation, i.e. the content strategy. I have already created countless PowerPoint presentations myself or had attended them as a listener. And I keep thinking about why a presentation turned out particularly well for me or why it particularly appeals to me.


The following points are my key takeaways for better powerpoint presentations:


What makes a good Powerpoint presentation?
  • A Powerpoint presentation should be remembered. It is made for the recipient, the audience.

  • It should be inspiring.

  • It should look good.

  • It should concentrate on the essentials. The audience can definitely take in less than you can fit into a presentation. How much information can a person actually absorb at the same time? In cognitive science, it is often assumed that the upper limit is seven pieces of information.* If different senses are addressed, it can be a little more. So the restriction to the most important content is an important criterion.


1. First the content - what should be communicated?

Who is your target audience and for what purpose are you creating the presentation? Do you want to pitch, do you want to report on the project status, do you want to convey knowledge about a specialist topic?

What are your most important statements? Try to limit these to a maximum of 7 in totalpoints (see footnote below for "memory span" and Miller's number" to understand why).


2. Introduction

The introduction is very important to capture the attention of your listeners. Just as important as the first sentence in a book or the first song on an album. It's like the hook, the fishing hook, in a good pitch (for this also read my blog post about pitching).


Good ways to get attention are:

  • Questions: "Can you imagine...?" or "Have you ever...?"

  • Provocations: "We're wasting time and resources with xy!" or "Xy we can do better!

  • Emotions: "Imagine you come into the office tomorrow and problem xy is solved!" or "Imagine you're really happy with xy!"

Be creative and bring your intro with a wink if you find it a bit daring.


3. A guiding theme in design and content

I mentioned earlier that our attention span is seven pieces of information. These are called "chunks" in cognitive science. Chunks can be organized into "rememberable units" to help us remember them. You do this in a presentation by logically building your most important statements on top of each other and putting them in the right order. One point should lead to the next. This is your guiding theme. You mustn't move away from that!


It applies to all content and structural elements:


Arguments: They should build on each other and logically result from each other step by step.

Fonts and sizes: They are consistent on each slide. Decide on a single font and font size for headings and text that you will use on each chart.

Colors: Limit yourself to a maximum of three different colors that go together. You can use the color wheel to make your selection:



Color theory - How to find matching colors
Color theory - How to find matching colors



Or you can search Google for "which colors match?".

In the corporate context, you must use the colors specified by the corporate design.

Clean layout: Never succumb to the temptation to scale down the font to fit more text on a page. There's nothing more uninteresting than charts crammed with small text! Stick to your text size, rather shorten it and split it into 2 or more slides.

Make sure text boxes and images are aligned consistently on each chart. To do this, use alignment functions (e.g. to arrange lists right/left justified), show the ruler, grid and guide lines.

A good way to check your layout is to click through your slides more quickly in the slide show and see if any text or images "jump" at the chart transition. You then adjust it.


4. Identify yourself with your statements

Be yourself and formulate in such a way that you can fully stand behind your statements. Use your own words, even if they may not seem as formal or textbook-like. Then you are convincing.


5. Interaction

Include questions in your presentation. Use a completely black foil from time to time to draw the listener's attention to you. Or just put a big question mark on the chart. This is how you engage your audience and keep them awake. Examples are: "How long do you think does xy take?", "How often have you dealt with xy this week?" or "What's going through your mind right now after hearing xy?". Always ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no, otherwise your interaction will fizzle out.


6. Speech style

Tips like "Speak slowly and clearly!" we all know. The best practice here is to talk so slowly that it feels just a bit too slow to yourself. Then it should be just right.

What I also find very important: Don't read every point of text on the slides. This is ultra-boring (and sadly happens too often). We're not in a reading. The charts are a support to visually reinforce information. Treat them as cheat sheets and speak freely or reproduce the statements in free words.


A suggestion for the brave among you

I saw a presentation by Jaron Lanier a few years ago. He had only one - but a decisive - (key)word on each chart. As he talked, he clicked from chart to chart, word to word. In between he spoke a lot freely. The presentation lasted a maximum of 10 minutes. That was fascinating and inspiring. I think the key to success here is finding just the right trigger words - and not overdoing it. I've tried it and sometimes used pictures instead of words. That was very well received!

Try that too!


Conclusion

You don't have to be a powerpoint guru to give a good presentation. The content and the way you build your presentation are much more important. I hope my six tips and my suggestion inspire you!


Do you have any other tips and hints for good presentations? Then just share it in a comment!



*If you want to know more, just google "memory span" and "how much information can a human take in at one time?". The 7 as the maximum amount of noticeable information is also called "Miller's number" because it was defined by the American psychologist George Armitage Miller (see wikipedia). Here is a good summary: The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two - Psynso



Please note: This text is translated into English by using Google Translate - I apologize for any mistakes in this text I may have overlooked.

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