Presenting a slideshow? Keep it brief

brevity

It is back to school which means there are a lot of PowerPoints, Keynotes, Google Slide shows that are going to be presented to students, parents and staff. I’ve got some tips for making yours better than the most.

Keep it short

The quote for good old Bill Shakespeare sums it up nicely. Present your points clearly, concisely and move on. Don’t give “humorous” anecdotes or stories that have nothing to do with your presentation. Also, don’t think you need to tell your audience everything that is going on. Find the major talking points and focus on those.

The Rule of Six

This is more of a guideline than a rule. It basically says no more than 6 words per title or bullet point and no more than 6 bullet points per slide. I use this because if I find myself going past the 6 words in a bullet point then this guideline forces me to rethink what I’ve written. If I can’t fit it on the bullet point in less than 6 words then it needs another bullet point. If I can’t explain it in 6 bullet points than I need another slide.

No sentences

There are exceptions here (quotes, mission statements, etc.), but I avoid sentences on a presentation like a Midwestern Pothole. I want to keep it to a word or just a few words. I almost never hit the 6 word limit. I want to explain the topic to them. If I am saying everything that is on the slide, then why am I up there wasting these people’s time? My audiences are all educated and can read and think for themselves.

Almost no animations/transitions

I used to love these damn things. I found it fun to apply new animations and transitions to slideshows just to see what can be done. The bottom line is that this slows down your presentation and they are usually unnecessary. It may only be a combined time of 5-10 extra seconds, but that might be enough time for audience to slump back in their chairs and start to tune you out.

If you use these animations all the time whatever the animations where there to emphasize is lost because everything has an animation. Avoid them.

Don’t read your slides

Again, maybe you are emphasizing a point like the school’s mission statement or a quote from a person, but typically don’t read your damn slides! The people watching your presentation are educated and can read themselves, they don’t need you to read it to them.

Also, you shouldn’t have that info in a paragraph or collection of sentences in the first place. If you do have a long string of words up, you don’t need to read it. Maybe wait in silence for a few seconds while the audience has a chance to read it and then further expound upon that topic or move on.

Templates and Color

When making a presentation you often have quite a few templates you can chose from and most of them look great on your computer screen. The problem comes when it shines through an aging projector who may not be as bright or the colors may not be as accurate.

I ran into this last week. I had an organizational chart that showed current projects that had not been started, started and completed. The projector did not convey those colors accurately so all the projects looked the same color. It was a bit of a fail.

If you have a really colorful template or specific colors used on text be cautious! I am making more and more of my presentations with a plain white background and black text. Even if the color goes out due to a bad VGA cord, my presentation will still be perfectly viewable.

Fonts

Chose fonts based on your audience. Kindergartners may like Comic Sans, but presenting to their parents is not really appropriate. It simply doesn’t look professional. Also stick with the same font throughout your presentation.

Rehearse

The last bit of advice I have is to rehearse! Practice it early and often. Even if it is just you in your office, bedroom, car – practice. You may feel silly at first but when you present it your audience will appreciate it. Through rehearsing you gain more and more understanding of what it is you want to say and how you want to say it. You also find that your slideshow does not reflect all the points you want to talk about and you often end up revising it. This will also give you more confidence when presenting because you know the presentation so well.

This practice also makes you extremely adaptable for unforeseen events. Last week, a presenter found herself with less time for one reason or another. She did not have time to go through her entire presentation so she had to figure out, on the fly, what she was going to skip and what she was going to highlight. Rehearsing may have made those choices a little easier for her and made her presentation go a little smoother. Again, not her fault finding herself in that situation but rehearsing could have smoothed out the tough spots.

About Patrick Cauley

I teach middle school technology and love to play around with tech and teach students and colleagues alike. You can read my blog at www.itbabble.com
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