Creating Dynamic PowerPoint Presentations


So, what IS “death by PowerPoint?” Everyone jokes about it, everyone says they never do it, so why, over and over again, do we receive complaints from conference attendees?? Here is what irks them the most ….. 

Too Small
Just because it looks great on the monitor sitting on your desk, it doesn’t mean it is going to look great on an 8 or 12 foot screen with people 70 feet away. If possible, test your presentation on an LCD in a large room so you can see how colors react, how text reads, etc. when it is enlarged. After you think you’ve picked the font size for your presentation double it! (Min 18 point). (??? I think 18 is way too small – I usually go with 26-30pt as min)

Too Much Info

If your PowerPoint gives all of your information about your topic, then why are you there? The number one complaint we see on evaluations is “the speaker just read us his/her PowerPoint.” Your PowerPoint presentation should clarify ideas, emphasize key points, show relationships and provide visual information to ensure the audience understands your message. You don’t want people to spend their time reading when they should be listening!

Too Much Bling
Just because PowerPoint comes with a ton of cool bells and whistles it doesn’t mean you have to use them all. Text flying in and out, changes in font from page to page, and using every color on the toolbar just distracts from your presentation. Remember, it is the information YOU PROVIDE that is most important; what is on the screen is just there to support the message. Rule of thumb: pick one font for headers, one for text, and leave it at that.

Just Too Darn Much
Consider the length of your presentation, take out time for introduction and questions or discussion and then divide the remainder of the time by the number of slides you have. This is how much time each slide will be up. Is this reasonable? Can you really address your points in depth if you are showing so many slides? Your audience will lose focus if they are whizzing by.

The more advanced the technology the more likely there are to be “technical problems.” We never have technical problems with a flip chart! Too often we have seen speakers come in at the last minute and be completely flustered when their PowerPoint or DVDs won’t work – or even worse, they don’t know how to advance a slide or play a video. It sets up a sheer panic for everyone. We always offer presenters the opportunity to send their PowerPoints and videos to the conference office in advance of the conference so we can test them on one of our on-site laptops – take advantage of this offer! Also, if you have imbedded anything into your presentation make sure you bring the source files as well! Arrive early and bring back up!!!

Here are a few suggestions for designing your presentation: 

  • Keep visuals CLEAR and SIMPLE. Abbreviate your message.
  • Simple graphs, charts and diagrams are much more meaningful to an audience than complex, cluttered ones.
  • Avoid the overuse of colors, patterns and graphics in one frame.
  • Use a minimum of words for text and title frames. Five to eight lines per frame and five to seven words per line are the maximum – less is better.
  • Upper and lower case lettering is more legible than all capital letters.
  • Vary the point size of lettering to emphasize headings and subheadings – but avoid using more than three font sizes per frame.
  • A sans serif typeface (like Arial) projects better and is easier to read.
  • Try to maintain the same or similar font size from frame to frame – even if some frames have less copy.
  • Try to keep all type horizontal on the page…even with charts.
  • Contrasting colors work best. A good rule of thumb: use a dark background color with lighter color for text and graphics. You may love yellow, but it doesn’t work well for background. Trust us.
  • Highlight your main point or heading with a dominant color (example: yellow heading, white body copy).
  • Avoid intensely bright or saturated colors that compete with the text.
  • Keep your color scheme or background “theme” consistent throughout your presentation. Changing colors and type styles can be very confusing and distract from your message.