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3 Tips for Improving Your Presentation Slides

January 09    |    Steve Mandel

“Death by PowerPoint” is very much alive and well.
It describes the experience of an audience being assaulted by a presentation that contains too many slides and too much data or text on each of those slides.

PowerPoint is so easy to use and so flexible in terms of what we can do with it, that it’s become the go-to tool for producing presentation handouts.  But, please, don’t put your handouts up on screen!

Have you ever killed with PowerPoint?
Fear not. There are a few simple things you can do to make your slide decks engaging without losing the ability to fully convey important information.

1. Use graphics or pictures to represent data. 
It’s easier to make an impact with data when the numbers are graphically presented, as in a bar graph, than with columns of numbers and raw data.

2. Limit text to the “5 x5” rule.
This means five lines or bullet points, maximum five words per line. You have about 25 words to play with in the body of the slide.  This word count excludes the title text.

3. Divide your presentation time in half to get your maximum number of slides. 
For example, if you have 60 minutes for a presentation, you should top out at around 30 slides.  If you can’t spend at least two minutes on a slide, perhaps it should go into a handout or the appendix instead of on screen.

“But, what about all my data?,” you ask.
Consider presenting only a subset of your full handout package and/or slides.  Tell your audience that you’re showing a subset of the full deck and that you can drill down anytime, on any topic they wish.

Use the “Hide Slide” feature in PowerPoint to keep the full set of slides hidden, but readily available to show. Hitting the letter “H” will reveal the hidden slide(s) immediately following your last slide.  You can have an infinite number of hidden slides behind any one slide in your deck.

Place extraneous slides that you don’t ever plan to present – but do want to make available – in the appendix of your handout.

Using these techniques helps to ensure you won’t overwhelm your audience, but instead keep them engaged and focused on your message.


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