In the wrong hands, corporate America’s favorite presentation software is less a productivity tool and more cruel and unusual punishment. Anyone who’s ever sat through an 80-slide-long presentation on an initiative that could have easily been summed up in a three-paragraph email knows what we’re talking about.
Fortunately, getting better at giving PowerPoint presentations is less about becoming a power user, and more about observing a few simple guidelines. Jesse Desjardins’s hilarious presentation “You Suck at Powerpoint!” explains why.
Here are a few of the many reasons you might have trouble giving a presentation:
1. You offer too much information on every slide.
Repeat after us, “The PowerPoint is not my script. The PowerPoint is not my script.” Or, as Desjardin puts it, “If you’re going to put word for word what you’re going to say, hand over the slides and take a seat instead.”
2. You skip the visuals.
For an example of how to include visuals in your presentation, you can’t do better than to look at the actual “You Suck at PowerPoint” presentation itself. Even when there are no visual representations of data to be had, Desjardin peppers his slides with amusingly retro images of horrified housewives and punch-drunk boxers. It’s just more entertaining for the audience if they have something to look at.
3. You don’t bother with (or don’t know how to do) quality design.
Visuals are good, but skip the boring stock photos, amateurish animations, and cartoony fonts. If you’re not a design person, don’t panic. You can learn a lot of what you need to know by analyzing your favorite presentations. (You know, the ones that didn’t put you to sleep.)
4. You don’t leave any white space.
The goal is not to cram every slide with words and pictures. Let your audience absorb the info.
5. You don’t prepare.
Most PowerPoints are put together on the fly, which is fine, if you’re an old pro. If you only deliver a presentation once a quarter, though, you need to give yourself time to remember all the things you forgot since the last time you did this. And no matter how experienced you are at using the software, you should leave yourself plenty of time to practice actually delivering the presentation. Everyone needs to time to get comfortable with their talking points.
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