Boring PowerPoint presentations have become so ubiquitous that some presenters and colleges have ditched them entirely. But is PowerPoint really to blame for boring presentations or lectures?
PowerPoint (and similar tools like Keynote, Google Slides, Prezi, and others) can be an effective tool for incorporating supporting content that reinforces the main points in your presentation or lecture, making it more memorable. But what separates a good presentation from a boring one?
Structure, content, and design.
Whether you are teaching a course to college students or running corporate trainings, there are some guidelines to follow that will help make your PowerPoint presentations more memorable and less boring.
3 Tips For Better PowerPoint Presentations
1. Structure Your Presentation
This step is essential for crafting a memorable presentation — whether or not you’re planning to include PowerPoint slides.
Structuring the content of your presentation will not only help your audience retain more of the information you are sharing, but also it will reduce your instinct to duplicate your verbal presentation in your PowerPoint slides. And when you have a presentation structure, the general framework will help you stay on track even if you forget specific details — you can focus less on your slides and more on delivering your message or story as you present.
The following are seven common presentation structures you can follow as you design your presentation:
- Basic Situation – Complication – Resolution: This is the go-to story structure that can help you create a narrative about anything from a product demo to an academic lecture.
- What? – So What? – Now What? In this structure, you’ll present your topic, explain why people should care and conclude with a call to action.
- Problem – Solution – Benefits: A classic persuasive framework that can work for almost any presentation.
- Opportunity – Benefits – Numbers: This framework can reduce the complexity of a business-oriented message, particularly to an executive audience.
- Chronological Order: This type of presentation is well-suited for interesting historical accounts or walking people through a process.
- Comparison – Contrast: Use this to present an argument that shows the advantages of a particular position.
- Cause – Effect: This framework can help you tell a story that highlights the underlying logic behind an idea or theory.
Related Reading: The Secret to Delivering a Perfect Presentation
2. Use Content that Enhances Your Lecture or Training
As you prepare your slides, you’ll want to avoid some of the common pitfalls that can cause your audience to zone out mid-presentation. Lecturers and trainers alike often prepare too many slides, packed with too much information, which makes it difficult for audiences to absorb the material. Instead, minimize the text in your slides and let your audience focus on listening to you.
The following are best practices for preparing PowerPoint content that will enhance your lectures or trainings:
- Eliminate redundant information. The details you add to your slides should support your talking points, not duplicate them.
- Avoid word overload. People will naturally read words on the screen — even big blocks of text and bulleted lists — which means they won’t be paying full attention to you. Showing fewer words per slide will help your audience focus on your delivery.
- Skip the jargon and buzzwords. You may understand those technical or academic terms, but you’ll lose anyone who isn’t familiar with them. Besides, being able to explain complex information using common words is a hallmark of understanding.
- Focus. One slide, one point. Break out bullet points into their own slides.
3. Think Visually When Designing PowerPoint Slides
People learn better when they receive information in both words and pictures. The good news is you don’t have to be a designer to create visually engaging PowerPoint slides. From images to fonts and colors, there are fairly simple guidelines you can follow that will help you create PowerPoint presentations that are designed for impact.
- Choose images that support your message. Instead of endless lists of bullets, opt for imagery that grabs people’s attention and forces them to listen to what you have to say next.
- Go for powerful images that grab attention. Look for images that will elicit an emotional response and enhance how people will remember your content. Real images that dramatize your speaking points are best — occasionally stock photography can work, but be selective. Never choose a picture that isn’t related to your talking point.
- Video is also powerful. PowerPoint now makes it easy to embed a video in your slides. Just as with images, you want to use relevant video as a resource to support specific points within your presentation.
- Limit colors and think contrast. Choose three to five colors and keep it simple. Make sure your font colors are easy to read on top of the background, and also consider playing with color within your slide text to make important words stand out. This color scheme generator can be helpful for finding colors for your presentation if you don’t know where to start.
- Use a Sans Serif font. Choose an easy-to-read san serif font, and skip serif fonts that may make characters blend together. It’s a good idea to select a font that can be found on most computers — that will help mitigate the possibility that your presentation will be reformatted on computers that don’t have a specific font installed. Arial, Calibri, and Tahoma are usually safe options.
- Aim for simple data visualization. Complex graphs and charts can be hard to interpret, so look for simple icons and stats that support a specific idea within your presentation.
- Limit distracting animations or transitions. Good animation should do only just enough to draw attention to a specific point. But exercise judgement and when in doubt, do without — good animation becomes bad animation simply by trying to do too much. As the presenter, you’d prefer to explain your points yourself instead of relying on complex animations to do it for you.
Watch a great example of a presentation with simple, engaging slides below:
Paying attention to the structure, content, and design of your PowerPoint presentation will help you to prepare lectures and training that really stick with your students. There are any number of pre-made slide templates you can choose to simplify the process — just be sure to avoid the clutter and keep slides focused.
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