All the software tricks in the world won’t make your presentations interesting and engaging. To accomplish that feat, you need to change how you deliver information, including what you put in your PowerPoint slide deck.
A fearless public speaker has confidence in themselves, in what they plan to say, and in the quality of their PowerPoint slides. To give better presentations, you can and should learn how to use PowerPoint more effectively.
If you want your slides to have more oomph and less ho-hum, here a three simple ways to create more fabulous PowerPoint presentations:
1. Ditch the bullet points
Heed this oft-repeated advice: To greatly improve your PowerPoint presentations, stop using bullet points. This advice bears repeating because:
- your boss is still using bullet points
- your coworkers are still using bullet points
- you’re still using bullet points
Bulleted lists are one of the most drab, ineffective ways to display information in PowerPoint. While lists can help organize information in a clear, logical way, a bulleted list style doesn’t enhance information with additional meaning. Bullets are also monotonous when they’re used in slide after slide after slide.
Bullets should be the exception, not the rule. But, if you’re avoiding bullet points in PowerPoint, what can you do instead?
Redesign your slide to offer the information in a different way. Create an eye-catching layout that incorporates the information. Put each bit of information into its own compartment. Add color, images, and other pieces of tasteful visual interest.
Here’s an example of how I transformed a bullet-burdened slide into something much more interesting for one of my clients:
2. Bump up the font size
As a PowerPoint user, you’re at a disadvantage. You have to design your PowerPoint presentation on a computer screen perched only a few feet from your face. Yet your audience will experience your slides very differently.
Some people in your audience will sit close to the screen, others way in the back. Your audience might see your slides beamed to a new, bright high-definition monitor with overhead lights dimmed down to the perfect level. Or, they might see slides that are distorted, dim, and out of focus because the ancient projector has to be propped up on an old phone book.
Before you create your PowerPoint presentation, imagine yourself in your audience and design for their experience. Be sure to learn more about where you’ll give your presentation, including the room size and layout, and the screen size and type. Choose a large enough font size so people in the last row of seats will be able to read your words.
If you can’t test your slides in the actual room where you’ll give your presentation, do your best to mimic what your audience will see. Put distance between yourself and your computer screen, and change your screen brightness and contrast.
There’s no ideal font size. A readable font size choice will depend on the room and screen, as well as the font family, the contrast between font colors and slide background, and the audience demographics. That said, a bigger font is often the right choice.
3. Add animated GIFs
Animated GIFs add a dynamic element to your PowerPoint presentations. It isn’t just about eye candy. An animated GIF can deliver more information than a still image.
GIFs may also be a safer alternative to embedding an entire video in your slide deck. Because, as any experienced presenter knows all too painfully, video and audio playback in PowerPoint is prone to complete technical failure.
Add an animated GIF the same way you insert any image into PowerPoint. Since animated GIFs can be large files and could distract your audience, don’t overload your presentation with them. Use GIFs sparingly and strategically.
I regularly use animated GIFs when I give trainings and speak in front of crowds. Sometimes the animated GIFs are serious, showing a behavior or best practice I want to to discuss with attendees. Other times, I include animated GIFs in my PowerPoints to entertain my audience and help me be a more memorable public speaker.
For example, here’s the opening title slide from my most popular training:
What are your secrets for more creating captivating PowerPoint presentations? Share your tips in the comments.
Lauren Girardin is a marketing and communications consultant, writer, and speaker based in San Francisco. She helps organizations and do-gooders engage their communities and tell their stories. Her website is laurengirardin.com and you can connect with her on Twitter at @girardinl.