PowerPoint & IONA Business & Technology Departmeent

IONA Business & Technology Departmeent
PowerPoint & Presentations Pointers
The ability to effectively present to a group of people is a key skill you should develop as it is in great demand
in the business world. Many times a great idea fails to impress simply because people didn't understand due to
poor communication techniques. In the past the options to presenters were limited to display boards and
handouts, however the introduction of the personal computer has opened up exciting new methods of
presenting your message to a group. The first task is to understand what communication process is happening
during a presentation:
An Introduction:
Microsoft PowerPoint, and other similar presentation software programs, is designed to facilitate the transfer of
information between one person (the presenter) and many people (the audience). Until now most of your
experience of communication has likely been 1:1 or within a small group, with the opportunity to receive
feedback easily. Now you must use BOTH audio and visual means to communicate to a group, which requires
that you understand what a presentation is and how it works. It is so much more than just software!
One effective way to start is by using the following GAME plan:Goal, Audience, Message and Execution.
Goal: Because you may often be asked to prepare presentations for those who are not adept at
preparing them, you need to accurately assess Why you are making the presentation;
Audience: Because you are presenting to a wide range of experiences (as many, in fact, as there are
audience members) you need to make sure you guage the knowledge level of the audience.
If you overestimate their knowledge level, you may present information they can’t understand fully, and
if you underestimate their level, you’ll be giving them what they already know so they will likely
be bored.
Message: This can be prepared in one of two ways: either write out all your ideas in full and then
extract key points for inclusion on the slides, or make a laundry list of points you want to cover
(these will be your slides’ bullet points) then elaborate on them in your script. Either way the audio and
visual will be tightly connected.
Execution: this covers both the development of the visuals and script, as well as the actual delivery of
the presentation. Two key principles are important in this Execution area: Control and Visibility.
The Control the presenter wields gives him/her confidence in making a strong presentation, while the
Visibility component refers to the layout of the slides’ information - delivered in an easy-to-absorb and
readable fashion.
• What goes on during a presentation? Plenty! Ever wonder why some people read aloud or move their lips
when they read? The same brain channels we use to talk and listen are the ones we adapt when we learn to
read. In other words, people look first, then listen. So, guess what happens when a slide goes up on the
screen? People scan it instantly, THEN they start to listen to the presenter. If there is any distracting or hard
to understand element on the slide, or if it is hard to read, this shift to listening will be delayed, and in the
process the presenter loses both momentum and control.
• The trick is to make visuals easy to scan and have the information formatted in predictable areas and in
prioritized type sizes to make their task easier. The templates in PowerPoint are formatted to do this for you.
In addition to presenting the bullet points, you have the option of ‘building’ the slides so points are revealed
when you choose to do so. In this way the audience isn’t wondering what you’ll say about point 4 when you’re
only talking about point 2. To get an idea of just how fast peoples’ brains process information, think of how
you can visualize the movements of the car behind you on the highway. You are glancing at it in the mirror,
but can still tell the speed, direction, colour and details of the car - and that’s a reversed image moving at
100km per hour!
• Successful presentations are planned and rehearsed. Rehearsal allows the presenter to deal with any
awkward word combinations that might trip them up verbally, and allows them to set a suitable pace.
Ideally they can either glance briefly at the slide before returning to eye contact with the audience
(that technique creates a connection between the presenter and the visuals) or eye contact with the audience
can be maintained throughout. Either way, rehearsal is critical in achieving this facility.
Slide Layouts:
• Effective slide layout techniques make use of the reading and scanning habits people acquire when they
learn to read. The same typographic and design principles that work well in print are applicable to slides, with
one twist: printed media can be experienced at the readers’ time frame (which may be leisurely or fast) but
slides are urgent information - you are moving on to another slide after making your point - so it has to convey
a ‘fast feel’ of the subject. Your words will put ‘flesh’ on the slide ‘bones’, and in the process will reinforce each
other so the recall will be greater than if the audience had read or heard the message independently.
• Because people can scan so quickly, they will have read the words faster than you can read them out loud for
them, so don’t bother. A full sentence of script should be accompanied by a visual point containing 3 to 6 key
words reinforcing it. No more. Unless you plan on analyzing a quotation line by line, don’t put full sentences on
the screen. Visibility suffers when there are too many words: there is simply no space for lots of large words on
the screen. In fact indenting (or ‘demoting’) a bullet point in PowerPoint not only makes it a sub-point, it makes
it 2 points smaller - compounding the problem.
• Three factors affect type legibility: Size, Colour and Contrast. Ideal sizes for type are 36 to 42 point bold for
the title/headline and minimum 24 point for bullet points. Emphasis should be indicted with bold or italic use,
but not by underlining as it adversely affects readability. Colour is often overlooked simply because of reliance
on default formats, but the fact is that many people (more males than females) are colourblind to some extent,
so dark or subdued colours are not effective. Contrast is the key. Contrast is the difference in perceived
brightness between the background and the type on the slide. Several things can affect this: the colours of the
type and background, the line weight of the font which may not offer a good solid line of colour if it is a slender
font, and the visual clutter of the background. Of these, the background is the most annoying to the audience
who are trying to read the words. The presenter has had the double-luxuries of knowing what’s on the slides
and he/she has spent long periods of time looking at it up close during production; the audience has neither
• Colour should not be white on black (or particularly vice-versa!) simply because it is far too hard on the eyes.
Words should be pale yellow on black for maximum visibility. Long wavelength red colours do not project well,
nor do short wavelength colours such as dark blue or dark green. Surprisingly, grey is an unexpected and
therefore effective ‘colour’ to use. Less than ideal lighting conditions during the presentation may require you to
use extremely ‘punchy’ colours.
• Since presentations are developed on computer screens where the light is being projected into the eye, many
designers use saturated (strong) colours, yet these colours look dimmer on the projection screen simply
because the viewer is looking at reflected light, and the darker the colours, the less light is reflected. A rule of
thumb is to put important information in light colours on a dark or coloured background.
• Coloured backgrounds or templates with strong patterns will interfere with imported visuals, whereas subtly
textured backgrounds will provide a nice contrast to clip art or imported pictures. When importing pictures it is
important to remember three key considerations:
a) does the picture reinforce or complement the words or idea being communicated?
b) is the picture quality sufficient to withstand the magnification on the screen?
c) can the picture be flopped or positioned on the slide to help move the eye effectively through the slide
Staging the show:
• When the individual slides have been produced, the “custom animation’ and ‘transition effects’ can be used to
control the entry of information on the slides, and revealed to the audience when the presenter is ready to
explain them - not before. Transition effects can be cute at first, but become annoying as each slide loads with
individual action rather than simply changing the words.
• The first and last slides should be black so the screen is blank before the presenter starts the presentation,
and avoids the desktop showing after the closing slide is advanced. It’s a professional touch that separates the
• For optimum effect, animation should disclose points smoothly and fairly fast while the presenter says the full
sentence. This will reinforce the point and increase audience recall. One extra touch is to have the previous
point(s) dim after a new point is brought up on the screen. The audience can still see the previous points, but
the brightest line is the ‘current’ point. This technique is known as ‘build and subdue’.
• One very effective slide trick is to use a ‘kicker’ line to conclude the slide contents. In the same way as the
title summarizes the theme of the slide (like a heading on a paragraph), the ‘kicker’ is a simple summary
statement that is set at the lower part of the slide, usually in bold, italic font, and ties the points together before
you move on to the next slide topic.
• When reviewing the slides, it is a good idea to print out hard copy and proof read them carefully, or better yet,
have someone else look at them. Their objectivity will be quite valuable in catching not just typos but also
statements that the audience may have trouble with.
• There are three timing options: Manual advance (by mouse click or space bar), Timed advance (in custom
animation) and Rehearsed mode where a script is cued during reading in rehearsal and the PowerPoint
software ‘remembers’ how long to keep between each cue. Manual offers greatest flexibility to respond to
audience, but can be distracting for an inexperienced presenter who may present past his/her slides and race
to catch up and get back in sync. Automatic timed advance doesn’t give the presenter the flexibility to respond
to the audience; the show continues regardless. If a script is used for consistency, as when the same
presentation is given to several audiences, the rehearsed mode is worth considering. Unlike the Automatic
mode, Rehearsed mode allows a point or an entire slide to remain in place for as long as your script is
covering the point. It cannot be stopped, however, if you see a puzzled look on someone’s face. They must
save their questions for after, which can be a problem if someone spends the balance of the presentation
paying more attention to their question than on the balance of your presentation. Of the three options, the
Manual advance offers presenters the greatest combination of control and flexibility.
Delivery Techniques:
• You can surf the ‘net for information on presentation mistakes by typing ‘presentation, techniques, mistakes’
and compiling a list of do’s and don’t’s. While most of these are common sense, they should be allowed to
make as comprehensive a list as possible of the many things that make presentations memorable.
• The one attribute that separates mediocre presenters from great ones is Confidence. Being thoroughly
familiar with the subject matter, aware that the audience wants to learn from them and finally delivery skills
honed by repeated rehearsal.
• Rehearsal is the single greatest component in delivering good presentations. It sets the pace or speed of the
presentation, develops the familiarity with the slides that allows the presenter to focus on the audience instead
of the screen, identifies awkward points in the presentation, and finally rehearsals are great opportunities to get
the ‘feel’ of the subject and expand on points.
• If you plan to inject a surprise slide (e.g.: a ‘deliberate’ typo), set up the line verbally before you show it or
else the audience will think you are merely covering up a mistake. By saying your reason before showing it,
you retain control over your presentation.
• Although it is possible to incorporate video or animation clips in a PowerPoint show, be aware that it can
result in losing your control of the audience while it plays. You will have to get them ‘back on track’ quickly
once the clip is finished.
• Checking the equipment is always a good idea. If you are rehearsing in a large room, remember that a room
full of people will absorb sound a great deal more than an empty one. You will need to increase your voice
volume naturally or with microphone assistance to overcome this.
• Because audience members may want to take notes during the presentation, and because a bright screen in
a totally dark room is hard on the eyes, room lights should not be fully dimmed. Side lights that don’t interfere
with the projected image are more effective than a dark room for viewing.
• Viewing angle can also be a consideration because if the image is projected on a smooth, white surface such
as a white board, light areas will glare back at the viewers. The physics of optics says that the angle of
acceptance (hitting the surface) is equal to the angle of reflection (bouncing back). Because of this, any
viewers close to the axis of the projector will get a ‘hot spot’ on the image.
When you wrap up a presentation, make sure you have addressed as many of the audience’s issues as
possible, and make a brief note of how it went. If they are honest with themselves, most presenters can list at
least one thing they could improve on subsequent presentations. Make your experience count. Take
advantage of opportunities to be in the audience for other presentations to learn from others’ techniques – and
note difficulties they face, and their response. You can learn from others’ experience too. Good Luck!