Proper Use of PowerPoint
What is the intention of PowerPoint? PowerPoint was originally made for communication purposes with an audience. The biggest purpose is to communicate with the audience. Even though most people use PowerPoint for this reason, a lot seem to depend on PowerPoint to to communicate the information for them. It is the presenter’s responsibility to deliver the information and the PowerPoint’s job to support the communications process.
When done appropriately, PowerPoint slides can do an excellent job of supporting communications. Keep in mind the slides only support what you are saying -- they don’t communicate with the audience for you. Edward Tufte, a retired professor of Yale University, is well known for criticizing the way PowerPoint is used. Tufte considers PowerPoint to be a convenience for the speaker, but notes how it can be costly to the content and the audience as well.
Better content allows for better presentations. Tufte believes that presentations can “stand or fall” depending on the quality, relevance, and integrity of the content. Tufte also thinks that “PowerPoint Phluff” and “chartjunk” can doom a good presentation. PowerPoint Phluff is considered over doing the PowerPoint’s looks by using gaudy layouts, cheerleader logotypes, branding and corny clipart. Chartjunk is defined as the various ways PowerPoint templates mask the real meaning of data. “PowerPoint is Evil” gives a excellent explanation of chartjunk and how Tufte feels about PowerPoint overall.
Use the following tips when making your next PowerPoint to ensure you will be able to deliver a good presentation. When making a PowerPoint, make sure to:
- Have a simple and consistent design template
- Use good content
- Limit one idea per slide
- Simplify and limit the number of words on the screen
- Create a good outline of what you are going to say
- Be consistent with the look and feel of your presentation (layout, headline, font size and styles, etc.)
- Use color well
- Limit bullets and text (as little as possible)
- Use appropriate fonts and sizes
- Sans Serif fonts for titles, bullets and body text
- When giving a presentation in front of people, make sure font is big enough for the people in the back of the room to read
- Use good quality images that reinforce your message
- Use appropriate graphs when necessary rather than charts or words
Things to avoid while making a PowerPoint:
- Long blocks of text
- An excessive amount of hierarchy in slides
- Capitalization (unless it’s a title)
- Clip Art
- Presenting the conclusion as the headline title
- “PowerPoint Phluff”
The brain has two different sides. The right side of the brain deals with emotion and the left side of the brain deals with logic and information. When you give a presentation, which side(s) do you want the audience to be using? Hopefully, both sides. Seth Godin’s “Really Bad PowerPoint (and how to avoid it)” gives excellent examples on how to make sure that your presentation connects with the audience in both ways. Here are some tips on how to improve your next presentation with PowerPoint:
- Respect your audience
- Never read aloud from slides
- Make yourself cue cards
- Don’t give PowerPoint center stage – remember, you are the presenter
- Create a logical flow with your presentation
- Make presentation readable
- Remember less is more
- Distribute handouts afterwards
- Engage your audience
Remember that your presentation provides the framework for your talk. It is not a teleprompter, don’t depend on your presentation to do it all for you. A good presentation strategy is to state what you will tell the audience and why, tell them the information and summarize by telling them what you told them.
Additional PowerPoint presentation resources:
- Death by PowerPoint
- Gettysburg PowerPoint Presentation (A PowerPoint Spoof of the Gettysburg Address)
- Garr Reynolds/Presentations
Keep in mind, you are not required to follow these PowerPoint rules. These rules serve as guidelines that you may abide by when creating your next PowerPoint presentation. They also help give a structure to your presentation and a goal to achieve while making it. These might be difficult to adhere to, but please try your best.
- Godin, Seth. "Really Bad PowerPoint." Seth's Blog: Really Bad PowerPoint. 29 Jan. 2007. July-Aug. 2008 <http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2007/01/really_bad_powe.html>.
- Hyatt, Michael. "Five Rules for Better PowerPoint Presentations." Working Smart: Five Rules for Better PowerPoint Presentations. 21 June 2005. July-Aug. 2008 <http://www.michaelhyatt.com/workingsmart/2005/06/five_rules_for_.html>.
- Reynolds, Garr. "Sample Slides." Sample Slides. 2005. July-Aug. 2008 <http://www.garrreynolds.com/presentation/sample1.html>.
- Tufte, Edward R. The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint. Connecticut: Graphics P LLC, 2003