Jan 21, 2010

How To: Create And Deliver A Winning PowerPoint Presentation

If you have ever gone to school or had a job, then you have come in contact with a PowerPoint presentation. Professors live and die by them. The professional world makes you skim through them at your desk or attend meetings to get caught up in the most recent corporate propaganda development. Whether you are a student or doing the 8-5 thing, PowerPoint is an inevitable part of life, just like red lights, Democrats, and hangovers. If you have been given the task of having to create and/or present one of these bastards, here are a few tips to consider so you don't end up being a boring and uninteresting d-bag.

Be presentable.
Dress appropriately. If it's a big boardroom presentation or the final grade in a class depends on the next 20 minutes of PowerPoint joy, wear your Sunday's finest. Wear a suit if you need to. Try it on the night before so you don't look like a jackass with a wrinkled suit, tie that is botched because you tried to wring it up on the way into the presentation, and a brown belt to match those black shoes. Also try to get some sleep the night before. Baggy, bloodshot eyes, and a snappy, disgruntled attitude isn't going to help get this job done. If you look good, you play good.

Keep it simple.
When you are creating the slide show, stray away from a complicated jumble of garbage. Stick with the same background color, font color, and font type throughout the presentation. I prefer a black background with a white font. It may be boring, but it's easy to read. Graphics are okay as long as they are meaningful. For the love of God don't incorporate Microsoft clip-art or pictures of your new born in the slide show. Nobody cares. This also isn't the time to test out your skill with tying in new animations for every block of text that is on the slide. If there is shit flying/fading/bouncing/zooming/flashing and so on throughout the whole thing, it is going to get distracting and annoying. Keep It Simple Stupid.

Don't read straight off the slides.
There is nothing more insulting than bringing together a group of people that you are able to present information to and then turn around and read them word-for-word what is on the screen in front of them. Most people can read. They don't need to be read to. If the presentation is 10 minutes long, and you read through it slide by slide, then you have successfully wasted 8-9 minutes of every one's time. It also demonstrates that you are not prepared and potentially have no idea what you're talking about. Which leads us to our next point...

Know the material.
Know the material. Know the material. Know the material. Try to be an expert on what you are delivering. It is okay to glance at the slides as a reference point or to stay on track, but don't use them as a crutch. Be confident about what you are presenting. If a question comes up during the presentation that you will be covering in ten slides, let the audience know that. Pretend that you could present the PowerPoint without even looking at the slides, without a computer or note cards, in the middle of a sudden power outage. If you know what you're talking about, people just might listen to what you have to say.

Keep the laser pointer at home.
Laser pointers are distracting. They are actually hard to follow and draw the audience's attention away from what you are delivering to a reaction similar to, "Oooohhh, look at the pretty laser pointer...ooooooaaahhhhh."

Involve the audience.

If you keep the audience's attention and ask them questions throughout the presentation, you are more likely to prevent them from falling asleep or being bored out of their minds. Make eye contact with everyone in the room. Singling out individuals is not necessarily a good approach, but survey type questions such as, "Who here hates PowerPoints?" might get a few hands raised. You can also toss out questions every once in awhile, but if you don't get an immediate answer, quickly continue with next point.

Move around.
Stand up in front of your audience and move back in forth in front of the slide. This is actually quite difficult to master, so this might be something you want to practice a little beforehand. Try to make it as casual as possible. If you point at the slide, try not to actually hit the screen. If you make a half-ass attempt to be energetic, you might get some energy back from the audience. On the flip-side, the worst thing you can do is sit down, read directly off the printed slide show handout, and not make any visual ques or interaction with the audience.

Give out free shit.
People like copies of what your presenting. It gives them something to doodle on, take notes, and perhaps even read later after they get back to their desk, take a #2, or use as bedtime reading. If your presentation is involving some sort of product or new business idea, passing out a free sample or using a prop will always win over your audience. People love free stuff. You could give out a free diaper full of hot shit and someone in the room will thank you for it when all is said and done.

Avoid the "Questions???" slide.

Please don't throw in the inevitable "Questions" slide at the end. And don't use that slide along with asking, "Sooooo, anyyyyyyy quuuuuuuuestiooooooons?" Just ask for questions at the end. People will let you know if they have anything they want answered.

Have a backup plan.

Find out what the environment consists of in regard to where you will be presenting. Email the PowerPoint to yourself, save it on a flash drive, print out copies of the slides for everyone, know how to operate the technology involved in presenting all of your hard work, and have a Plan B and Plan C in case our friend Murphy's Law decides to show up. Believe me, he will.

Happy PowerPointing!