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Dave Hill – Speaker, Trainer, Author, and speech Coach

It was just another day out at the zoo in Austin, Texas. I left my kids seated on a bench to rest as I walked a short distance away to look at some animals in an enclosure. I must have been distracted and out of earshot for a while, because when I turned around, a “horror scene” was unfolding. My kids were cowering as a “ferocious” young deer came along to check if they had any food. I am not sure if the deer got out of its enclosure or if it was allowed to wander, but it certainly made for a captivating black and white photo. If you look carefully, you can feel the emotions coming out of the picture. The deer, with its head slightly bowed in a submissive posture is slowly inching towards my kids. My son is cowering behind his sister with his eyes focused. He appears to be nudging or pushing her towards the deer with the voice in his head saying, “Take her, take her now, she will taste good!”

This article discusses success strategies for visual slides such as this.

20 considerations to maximize the effectiveness of a PowerPoint slide through design:
1. The slide wording should clearly identify the point you are trying to make.
2. The wording should be in a “headline format” to grab the audience attention and make them curious (it doesn’t need to be a complete sentence).
3. Make the text short, taking up no more than two lines. Use a heading font size that is clear to see (~ 40 point).
4. The headline will be more effective if it includes a conclusion to frame the problem and a possible solution in the audience’s mind.
5. The text does not contain acronyms that may cause audience members to lose track while they are mentally trying to work out the meaning.
6. The slide design should tend to promote conversation. Wouldn’t the slide above make you somewhat intrigued and feel a need to get more details?
7. The graphic needs to relate to the text, and should be easy to correlate to the words (the one above could be more effective with higher definition).
8. People should be able to relate to the picture.
9. Refrain from:
• Slides that are full of words (and presenters that read word for word directly from the screen and even use the laser pointer to “bounce” from word to word).
• Too many points (one point at a time is ideal in many cases).
• Bullet points that are too wordy.
10. Know your material, practice, practice, practice (practicing in your head is not effective, practice out loud).
11. The background colors and font colors should be easy to see (this slide would work more effectively in a dark room – always consider the room lighting when developing slides). As a presenter, you want the focus to be on you rather than your slides. It can be beneficial to have a white background and dark font to allow the slide to be visible and maximize the level of room illumination.
12. The background is not too busy (the background is there to compliment your slide and to help illuminate the content rather than be the center of attention).
13. The font types are not too busy (use clear font types such as Arial and Times New Roman).
14. Use wording or sentence emphasis coloring sparingly. The coloring can be used to focus attention to a word or to highlight structure such as headline, points, and sub-points. The coloring could be further emphasized by putting the word in italics.
15. Use animation sparingly, the most effective use is to have your point and sub-points appear one at a time (on click) to keep the audience focused, to prevent them from reading ahead and tuning-out your voice.
16. Refrain from using the automatic timer in animation, as it can easily disrupt your flow if delays are encountered such as someone asking a question.
17. Overuse of visual and audio animation can be annoying and erode the image of professionalism.
18. Check your spelling and grammar.
19. Get peer review to make sure your presentation is on target for the specific audience. Let your presentation sit for a while, and then come back to it to see if you still think the scope and content is on target.
20. Use a consistent background as much as possible. Reasons to use a different background might be:
a. To highlight a major section change in your presentation
b. To make a specific slide more visible (i.e. to make a photo or other visual stand out)

Considerations to maximize the effectiveness of a PowerPoint slide through delivery:
1. Use the “B” button on the keyboard to blank out the screen to help focus the attention on you when you are telling a story (and if the slide visual does not compliment your story or relate to the train of thought). Another reason to blank out the slide would be if you are going to take some other action such as walk into the audience for discussion purposes, or move to a flipchart to clarify some details, etc.
2. Determine where you are going to stand and present from (left side from the audience view is preferable).
3. Determine what physical actions and movement will be required relative to the room configuration (is the flip chart in a suitable location so you are not walking through the projector light?).
4. Do not stand in front of the projector light.
5. Set the slides up so you can activate everything using a click of a remote. It can be distracting if you have to keep fiddling with a keyboard to get slides to advance or videos to play. It can also be unnecessarily distracting to have to give instructions to an assistant at the keyboard.
6. Face the audiences when you are talking, make eye contact, and engage them.
7. Don’t stay trapped by a laptop and keyboard.
8. Change presentation modes to keep the audience attention (slides, flip-chart, questions, video, stories, humor, physical props, etc.).

Final notes
1. Develop a presentation outline/table of contents (early on in the presentation) so that the audience understands how the information you are giving is pieced together.
2. Keep a camera with you when you may have opportunities to take photos that might be useful in the future. Keep focused on the kind of things you present on, and build a file of photos for use in your slides.
3. Gather your personal stories and develop a story file so that you can illuminate your slides by incorporating relatable personal information.
4. Beware of copyright restrictions when using images from sources such as “Google Images”. In Google Images you can do an advanced search and filter to identify ones with no copyright restrictions or minor requirements.
5. A cheap source for royalty free photos is www.istockphoto.com. These lower definition quality photos are very adequate for PowerPoint purposes and cost under $2 in most cases.
6. See my previous article on success strategies for linking videos in a previous article at this link.

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