How To Create Engaging & Memorable PowerPoint Slides for Your Presentation

Ah, the humble slide deck. Is there any invention that attracts as much controversy, debate and outright arguments in the world of public speaking and presenting? Some people cannot live without them. Others shun them completely, saying that the only thing that slides have the power(point) to do is strike fear into the hearts of audiences, before casting a sleeping spell over the entire room (speaker sometimes included…)

Well, here at secondnature, we believe that slides don’t have to be the evil enemy of presentations – provided that they are used correctly and effectively of course! In today’s post we’ve outlined some of our top tips for creating effective PowerPoint slide presentations that will actually help your presentation rather than hindering it. We’ll also take a look at roughly how many slides you should have in your deck, depending on the length of your presentation, and why it’s so important to practice and ensure that your slides are there to offer light support – not to be used as a crutch.

Don’t fumble around trying to get your slides up on the screen before starting

We’ve all seen it – someone walks up to the front of the room, sticks a USB into the computer, and proceeds to fumble awkwardly for around 5 minutes trying to get their slides up on screen… It’s a classic example of when people let their slides overshadow their presentation right from the start.

Instead, why not effectively open your presentation by hooking your audience in with an interesting anecdote or statistic, then start your slides up afterwards? We see it all the time in TED talks. If you absolutely must start with a slide, at least ensure you arrive early to set up and have your slides ready to go, so you can focus on giving a strong opening and commanding the room.

A picture tells a thousand words (that your audience will actually listen to!)

Before you open a blank document and start madly typing text into a bunch of empty slides – stop and think for a minute. It tends to be a lot harder to take information out of a deck once you already have it in there, so think carefully about what you add in the first place. If you’re great at painting a picture with your words, sometimes it can be better to speak them rather than writing them.

Think about what visuals can be used in place of text to demonstrate the same information, while you explain it verbally. Could you use a photo of the historical person you’re talking about? An image of the place you’re referring to? Get creative and don’t be afraid to use slides that are purely made up of single or multiple images.

When we say pictures, we don’t just mean photographs either. Visualisations such as charts, tables, and infographics can go a long way in helping to demonstrate information, statistics and case studies in a more easily digestible way. Instead of a dot-point list of stats and figures, lay everything out in a graphic format. Most graphics can be created simply and easily within PowerPoint directly, or if you have a bit of extra time, get your graphic designer on board. Alternatively, check out the latest in slide design best practice by visiting sites such as http://www.garrreynolds.com/preso-tips/design/.

Vary the content of your slides

Even with the above in mind, looking at slide after slide after slide of graphics can get boring and monotonous for your audience. Switch it up every few slides by alternating between text slides, image slides, and even video slides (provided you can get the video to play when you need it to!)

Don’t use amateur animations

Do you have lines of text swiping, twirling, fading, whizzing, bouncing or any other verb-ing into your slides? Best to wipe it out of your presentation completely. Cheesy animations tend to make a presentation look amateurish, and can distract the audience from what you’re trying to say.

How many slides should you use in your presentation?

This is a question we often get asked. It may seem like a bit of a “how long is a piece of string” type of question, but there are general guidelines out there, based on how long people’s attention spans are (hint: it’s not very long!)

We’ve often heard of the 10/20/30 PowerPoint rule – Use no more than 10 slides, speak for no longer that 20 minutes, and use no smaller than 30 font size. We think this is a pretty good guide, as it’s generally a good idea to spend around 1.5 to 3 minutes on each slide. This equates to roughly:

Presentation timeSlides
10-15 minutes5
20-30 minutes10
40-60 minutes20

Again, these are not hard and fast rules, but more so a good rule of thumb. Remember – don’t become a slave to your slides, and there’s no need to stand there with a stopwatch timing each slide to the precise second.  Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to practice before delivering your presentation, so you can nail the timing of your slides smoothly and naturally.

What are your top tips for creating effective slide presentations that won’t have you arrested for killing your audience with boredom?

Further reading: Make friends with your slides: Go Slide-Surfing

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