Creating Great Presentation Slides

FIG. 1 People delivering a presentation to colleagues. A common thing to be found.

Delivering presentation is unavoidable these days. Whoever you are, you will need to deliver a presentation one day. To help the audience get better understanding about our topic, we often use presentation slides using programs like Microsoft Power Point, Apple Keynote or some online tools like www.280slides.com.

FIG. 2 Apple Keynote

FIG 3. Microsoft Power Point 2010

Slides are presenter’s tool but a lot of presenter treat them like the core of the presentation. They just read aloud the content of the slides, word by word, sentence by sentence. This kind of presentation is totally boring and unattractive. So, how we can make deliver great presentation with slides? I share the same idea with an article in http://www.inc.com which state this:

(Steve) Jobs is often cited as one of corporate America’s greatest presenters, and that’s simply because he understands one thing: how to tell a story

Yes, you need to craft your presentation to tell your stories to your audience. As the article also said:

The trick is to understand how to engage your listeners, keep them focused, and use the right visual imagery to convey your message.

By creating emotional connection between your audience to the content of your presentation, it is easier to keep them listening to you and excited about what you are telling them.

The article suggests several tips for us to create a great presentation:

1. Create a narrative.

Our presentation should have a beginning, middle, and an end. You need to tell the audience about your presentation outline in the beginning, middle and end, too. This will make the audience understand your presentation flow. By having this outline, you can make sure that your speech doesn’t get out of the context and flow.

FIG 4. Outline helps your audience to understand the flow of your presentation content.

The article also mentioned about Guy Kawasaki’s tips for creating a story line for an entrepreneur’s PowerPoint presentation to investors (he wrote that in his blog , How to Change the World). His method is called “10/20/30 rule” and it is a great way to structure your presentation’s story. He suggest that a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.

Kawasaki’s recommended structure for any entrepreneurial presentation is as follows:

1.    Problem
2.    Your solution
3.    Business model
4.    Underlying magic/technology
5.    Marketing and sales
6.    Competition
7.    Team
8.    Projections and milestones
9.    Status and timeline
10.   Summary and call to action

So, the article suggest that regardless of a specific structure we choose for our presentation, our story needs to accomplish these three goals: frame the issue, present the challenge, and explain how you will solve the problem

2. Less is More

Have you ever seen a slide which is full of text, just like it’s just been copied and pasted from a report or textbook? I did and I’m sure you have, too. Is that slides interesting? NOT. I even assume the slide maker (most often is the presenter him/herself) is lazy. He/She don’t even care to summarize the content of the slides and he/she will most likely present the slides by reading the whole sentences.

A great presentation “should really just give the highlights,” says Bornemann. Steve Jobs, for example, is famous for using virtually no text at all— an icon of a new product or two or three “big picture” words will suffice. “People are afraid to use a slide with one word, but it has merit, because we have to process information before we go on to the next idea,” Bornemann says. It’s also good to segment presentations in places where your audience’s mind can sum up—and process—the information, so that they’re actually able to think about what you’re telling them.

FIG 5. Note how Steve Jobs designed his slides. He tend to include minimal amount of text. He said that if you have too much things in your slides, you don’t know anything about your topic. Less is more.

So, after you finish creating your slides, re-examine each and every slides then ask yourself: can I make it simpler, less sentences but still retain the core information? If the answer yes, be mean. Be very, very mean and delete the unnecessary content. Remember that people get bored easily when they look at slide full of text, especially in those tiny fonts. People will not bother to try to read or understand those sentences and even though if they try to read, they might read not fast enough before you move on to the next slide. Once again, less is more. Less is better. Too much text in a slide is annoying and make you look lazy and unprofessional. Some details explanation are best left in the hand out.

FIG 6. Too much information in a single slide. Can you even read it? Do you think your audience will read or do they even bother to try to understand the content?

FIG 7. Comparison of too-much-text slide with optimum-amount-of-text slide. Decide which one do you feel easier to be understood?

3. Rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse once more

The presentation on the screen is just as important as the speaker’s presentation off the screen. When giving the PowerPoint Presentation, it’s essential to add a little flavor to the speech.

You, as the presenter, have to be the main show. Your speech is the core. Slides are only there to guide your speech to be in the context and help your audience to visualize easier.

According to Confalone, there are two ways a speaker can fail in his or her presentation: a lack confidence, or a misconception about what the audience will retain from the speech

Since your speech is the main show, you have to be able to deliver it great. You have to know or expect who your audience will be. I know many people (myself included, I guess) feel afraid if they have to give speech or talk in front of people. Because I’m a natural great public speaker, I have to prepare. I have noticed that I have managed my nervousness by doing a lot of practice.

Don’t count on notes. Yes, some people carry small notes in case they forget what to say but I think it’s better not to carry any notes. People will see you as less prepared when you read notes, especially when you glance at the notes too often. You also can’t give eye-contact and tends to be less engaged to the audience.  You don’t give full attention to the audience by glancing at the notes.

To read more about some tips to make great presentation slides (including the sources for this article), you can also check out these links:

1. “What is good Power Point design?” by Presentation Zen

2. “How To Make A Slide Presentation” by John Cesarone Ph.D., P.E from Engineering Solution.

3. “10/20/30 Rule of Powerpoint” by Guy Kawasaki.

4. “How to Create a Great PowerPoint Presentation” by Inc.com

Several links about the slides template that might give your presentation slides a little bit uncommon style and format. Feel free to add more links of your favorite sources for slides template, either for Apple Keynote or Microsoft Power Point.

1. 40+ Awesome Keynote and PowerPoint Templates and Resources.

2. 20 Free PowerPoint Templates that Don’t Suck

3. Free PowerPoint Templates

Comments are welcomed if you have any brilliant ideas to share with all of us about making great presentation slides.

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