Dawn Bjork Buzbee
The Software Pro®
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Certified Microsoft Office 2010 Specialist (MOS 2010) Master Instructor
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Microsoft Certified Application Specialist (MCAS) Instructor
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7 Tips to Better Presentations
In the early days of PowerPoint presentations, audiences were
tortured by typewriter text, pointless, clunky animated clip art, and
obnoxious sound effects. Gratefully, much of this noise is gone or has
been upgraded by higher quality, more entertaining audio and video. Even
with the evolution of some presentations, we are still subjected,
however, to one of the most painful parts of PowerPoint-slides packed
with bulleted paragraphs that the presenter will "helpfully" read to
What can you do today to increase your presentation success by
crafting slides that banish bloated bullets? Some experts pronounce that
there should not be any bullets in PowerPoint presentations-just use
visuals with limited text. I agree with this goal in many instances-in
fact, most of my presentations are heavy on photos and other images and
light on bulleted text even though my subjects are highly technical.
The reality in the workplace, however, is that a majority of subject
matter experts (SMEs) are not professional speakers and are often also
using the slide content as their presentation notes. What changes, then,
can we make to PowerPoint slides (or suggest to our colleagues and
co-workers) to improve readability, add more interest to the
presentations, and head towards the goal of banishing bloated bullets
and improving the text bullets you create?
- Apply the 5 by 5 Rule. Remember this idea: "5 by 5
keeps a presentation alive!" This means that most bulleted
slides should have no more than 5 bullets with only about 5-6 words
per bullet. I've heard contradictory advice that we should not have
any rules like these because it creates too rigid a structure for
presentations that should instead be more interactive and flexible.
Based on my experience with thousands of PowerPoint users, many
technical experts are more comfortable improving their slides (and
the audience experience) if they have "rules" to work with.
- Ideas Not Sentences. Applying the 5 by 5 Rule, bullets
should not be entire paragraphs or even sentences. Stick to a
descriptive phrase or key idea and, as the presenter, bring the
rest. After all, if you display everything you are going to say, why
are you there? Applying these guidelines should also limit each
bullet to no more than 2 lines per bullet.
- Break Up Text Slides. Run through your slide show or
switch to the Slide Sorter View. How many text slides do you have in
a row? Give your audience a break-please! Avoid having more than 3
to 4 text slides in a row. Add a photo, graph, chart, timelines,
tables, and other visuals to add interest and to grab more attention
from your audience.
- Keep Bullets Simple. As tempting as it can be to pick a
decorative bullet, solid bullet characters are easier to read
especially from a distance. Your default choices for bullets can be
established from the Slide Masters in your presentation so that you
only have to setup the formatting in one place.
- Don't Confuse with Numbered Lists. Look at the slides in
your presentation with numbered bullet items. Is this simply a list
of the points you want to make or are you presenting a sequence or
list of steps that needs to be in that order? To your audience, a
numbered list implies a required sequence. Change a numbered list to
standard bullets if the order doesn't matter.
- Move Rules, Regulations, and References to a New Home.
With technical topics, which are just about any area of expertise
these days, we often see lengthy citations, excerpts from regulation
manuals, and other detailed references as the featured content in
PowerPoint slides. Ugh! Not only is your audience not likely to be
able to read it but they will certainly not be interested in having
you recite the long, boring text to them. Not all content should be
or needs to be in your presentation. Move it to a place where your
audience members can actually benefit from the reference: a handout
or resource manual, your organization Intranet or website.
Still need to cover this information? Who made the rule that a
PowerPoint presentation has to be contiguous? Some presentations are
more effective by taking breaks to reference materials, to collect
ideas on a flip chart, or to engage in audience interaction.
- Forget the Lie About Memorizing. One of the easiest ways
to feel more comfortable cleaning up your bullets slides and thus
improving your effectiveness as a presenter is to use presentation
notes. We are often conditioned by watching motivational speakers,
professional presenters, and other performers to think that we have
to memorize our speeches and that we cannot use notes. Keep in mind
that many of these presenters have practiced their performances
hundreds of times.
The pressure to memorize a talk is the top reason why many
presenters rely instead on putting their entire speech directly into
their PowerPoint presentation-they are afraid of forgetting how and
what they want to say. Explore how to do Notes Pages or Speaker
Notes in PowerPoint so that you can eliminate much of the text in
your presentation slides. Yes, you will be more effective if you
devote the time to practice your presentation and are not reading
directly off of notes or your slides, but decide if using notes will
give you the flexibility to simplify your slides and give you more
value as a presenter.
Set the goal to banish bloated bullets and watch as you deliver more
© Dawn Bjork Buzbee, MCT, The Software Pro®
Dawn Bjork Buzbee
is The Software Pro®
and a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) as well as a certified Microsoft Office
Specialist (MOS) Master Instructor, certified Microsoft Applications Specialist
(MCAS) Instructor, and a certified Microsoft Office expert. Dawn shares smart
and easy ways to effectively use software through her work as a software
speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of 8 books.
This article and
more can be reprinted at no charge in your publications and website with
copyright and attribution.
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Press [F5] to quickly run a
PowerPoint slide show presentation.
Press [Shift] + [F5] to quickly run a PowerPoint slide show
presentation from the active slide.
|Good rule of
thumb: most slides should not be displayed onscreen longer than
about 30-60 seconds before you move to the next slide or add
movement such as a transition or animation.