Five ways to make your presentation presentable

I like to joke that I have a master’s degree in PowerPoint, because in two years of graduate school, I prepared more presentations than I wrote papers. Like it or not, today’s fast-paced world is about visuals and bite-size information.

US_Navy_040605-N-6633C-002_Commander_Naval_Reserve_Force,_Vice_Adm__John_G__Cotton,_is_silhouetted_in_front_of_a_Powerpoint_slide_mapping_out_the_Naval_Reserve_Force's_futureDuring my two years at Spalding University and over the course of my 26-year career, I’ve seen my fair share of presentations – the good, the bad and the ugly. Following a few simple guidelines can ensure that your presentation doesn’t fall into the latter two categories.

Keep your bullet points short and each slide focused. Don’t cram. Think of each slide as a main idea, and the bullet points as reminders of key points you want to make about the idea. Don’t write out everything you plan to say. Nothing is more boring than a slide full of words and a presenter reading them.

Show restraint with your fonts and colors. Choose one or two and stick with them to give your presentation a cohesive look. Theme templates are a great help here. Be sure the type sizes can be read easily from a distance. And above all, step away from the Comic Sans.

Choose your theme carefully. Make sure the tone of the theme fits your subject matter. If you will print the slides for your audience to take home, then you probably don’t want to use a theme with a dark background, which will use a lot of toner or ink to print. If you are presenting to an older audience, be aware that reverse type – light type on a darker background – can be difficult for some older adults to read (and some of us middle-agers, too).

Use art judiciously. Visuals help tell a story. But depending on your subject matter, overuse of stock clip art might make your presentations look cartoonish. Search for free stock photos; do not violate copyrights by stealing from other publications or photographers. If you do a Google image search, click on “search tools,” and you’ll find a drop-down menu for usage rights. This feature will help you find photos that may be reused. Alternatively, a search of “free stock images” will bring up numerous sites where you can find photos if you register. Lastly, don’t forget about embedding video clips where appropriate.

Make sure any graphics are readable. Sometimes maps, charts or graphs that look great on your computer screen are not as easy to read from 10 feet away on a projection screen. Rather than have a distracted, squinting audience, consider scaling back the level of detail in the graphics for your presentation.

Keeping your presentation clear and cohesive will keep your audience focused on you – and your message.

Lisa Jessie

C2 Business Strategist

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