Why your PowerPoint presentations STINK. (no offense)

You may already know your slides are not so hot. You may think they’re just fine – or really good even.  Well, if your slides are exhibiting any of the things I list here; not only are they not good, or fine or not so hot; they STINK.  No offense. Read on and (possibly) weep. Then edit!

1) Your slides require reading.  Humans use the same processor in working memory for language, be it written or spoken. It’s called the phonological loop, but we can think of it as the inner ear and the inner voice.  When we read, our inner voice reads the words to our inner ear. When someone is speaking our inner ear hears it and processes it.  When we put text on a slide our inner voice must read it to our inner ear.  If we are speaking at the same time, our inner ear has the added job of listening to us speak.  Unfortunately, the inner ear cannot do both at the same time. Thus, when we show a slide that requires reading our audience makes a choice: they either ignore us and read the slide, ignore the slide and listen to us, or read the slide and then try and catch up with us. A slide that requires the audience to read is a BIG STINKY DISTRACTION – not a visual aid.

2) Your slides can’t be seen clearly and easily. If you’re using a font smaller than 18, you’re almost assuring that those in the back – and possibly in the front of the room –  can’t see what’s on your slide.  (NOTE to SELF: If you show a slide and tell the audience “You can’t really see this, but…” it’s not a visual aid.) Fonts that are serif- Times New Roman is the most common, or fonts that are shaded, or in florescent colors, or dark against a dark background are all very hard to see. Hard to see = FUZZY STINKY DISTRACTION. Think BIG, BOLD and BORING. Sans serif fonts; Arial, Calibri, Tahoma, Verdana are all good boring choices.

3) You’re showing all the information at once. If you’re showing a line chart (way to go – that’s a visual aid)  don’t show your audience all 5 years at once.  They don’t know where to look first, and different people will look at different things.  Use animation! Be a control freak; show them first the X and Y axis, and tell them what they represent, and then show one year at a time.

4) You’ve copied and pasted other people’s slides into your deck. You’ve taken great visuals from your colleague’s presentations and pasted them into your presentation. That’s fine for a start. But do they really belong?  Do they help you tell your story, or do they just look really good? Great visuals are only great if they help you prove or explain something. If not, they’re a BIG STINKY YOU-KNOW-WHAT. Be a vigilant editor.

5) You’ve not practiced the presentation OUT LOUD in slide show mode. How do you know if the slides you’ve included in your presentation belong?  How do you know you’ve got the animations right?  How do you know what your talking points will be? There’s only one way; you must PRACTICE OUT LOUD. In your head does not count.  And not being in Slide Show mode doesn’t count either.  Just do it.  In  Slide Show mode.

The choice is yours. You can create a PowerPoint Presentation that enhances your audience’s understanding and retention of your message, or you can create one that  inhibits your audience’s ability to understand your message, let alone remember it. The former will truly act as a visual AID.  The latter, will just, you know, STINK.  Make your slides visual aids and you’ll be heard.

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