Slide Design

May 3, 2011

For main busy executives, the idea of taking time out to plan the design of their presentation slides is a foreign concept. But a little bit of thought and consistency can go a long way.

If you are one of the many who picks a PowerPoint background at random then it is time to thing again. All the backgrounds provided by Microsoft have been used time and time again. As soon as someone sees that perennial blue fade background with the wavy lines across the top, they instantly remember the last boring presentation they sat through and assume yours will be the same.

To create an original looking background to your presentation, try using a relevant photograph. The only problem is that most photographs have a combination of light and dark, which can make any text laid on top difficult to read. By making the background image a “watermark” or giving it a high level of transparency, you can create a unique a relevant background without interfering with the legibility of the slides.

Another option is to add the text in a text box and then fill the text box with a pale colour and set the transparency level to about 50%. This makes the text more readable but the underlying picture still shows through.

One thing that I approve of in the later release of PowerPoint is the concept of themes, which include a range of colours, and fonts for each theme. To the design illiterate like me, it means that at least I can be confident that the various standard colours I use through the presentation match, and that there is a consistent use of fonts on every slide.

As for individual slides, the smallest font you should ever use is 24pt, with most text being 32pt and titles even larger. Do not mix lots of different fonts throughout  your presentation, two fonts should be sufficient. See the Fonts entry for more advice on your choice of fonts.

Try to have just one concept for every slide. If you have 5 points to make, rather than having 5 bullet points, have five different slides, each one with a descriptive and appropriate image. See my related article on Bullet Points.

My one final point on design concerns animation. Animation should only be used if it actively contributes towards the meaning of the slide. In particular don’t use the spurious animation techniques PowerPoint provides to move from one slide to the next.

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Speaker

January 5, 2010

That’s you!  Like it or not if you are giving a presentation you will be judged.  Many of the hints and tips in this book are aimed at improving how you will be judged.  Helping you to overcome any fear/nervousness and turn it to your advantage by using the energy generated by the adrenaline to add more power to your presentation.

The biggest factor in your success as a speaker is your confidence.  If you are confident you will come across far better than if you are timid and nervous.  As perception is far more important than reality, looking confident can mask an awful lot of nerves that are bubbling up under the surface.  The aim is to look like a swan gracefully gliding across the top of the water, keeping the feet, which are paddling like mad, hidden from view.  Like the majestic swan, how you look and how you dress are very important in instilling that confidence in yourself and in your audience.

Look out of place because of the way you are dressed and it will affect how well your message is taken.  Although many businesses have a dress down policy these days, if you are presenting to a business audience it is usually advisably for a man to wear a suit and tie and a lady to wear a suit or similar business attire.  Shoes should also be polished, as it is surprising what assumptions are still made about a person in business, based on the state of their footwear.

When you are addressing a group of factory workers who are all dressed in overalls and you want to influence their behaviour, then a more casual appearance may be beneficial.  You may want to appear less like one of the managers and more like one of the team.  Every situation is different but there is never an excuse for not worrying about it.

By wearing clothes that make you feel good, it will help to boost your confidence.

Looking good is just part of it you also need to sound good.  This means three things:

  1. Speaking loudly enough so that people can hear what you are saying.
  2. Speaking clearly enough so people can understand the words that you are saying
  3. Omitting unnecessary words, grunts and groans.

When you are projecting your voice, you use your diaphragm.  This is completely different from shouting, which is achieved through muscles in your neck.  It should not hurt to project your voice unlike it does if you shout too much.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever


Stage Fright

January 5, 2010

It is perfectly normal to be nervous before you go on stage.  Just like many famous actors, you are entitled to get stage fright before a performance.  ‘F is for Fear‘ provides more information on this aspect of presenting.

Once you start to talk, you should find that any stage fright soon wears off.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever


Smile

January 5, 2010

Smile and the whole world smiles back.  Never more so than when you are presenting.  With the odd exception of having to deliver bad news, it is invariably better to smile.  If you are nervous, look for friendly smiling faces in the audience and give them lots of eye contact to begin with, it will help to calm your nerves.  Do not forget to look at everyone else in the audience as your presentation progresses.

By smiling, you look like you are enjoying giving the presentation, which in turn encourages your audeince to enjoy it as well.


Scripts

January 5, 2010

Some people will find it helpful to write out a full script of what they are going to present, in order to organise their thoughts and plan their presentation.  Whatever you do, do not try using that script to support you while you give the talk.  

Scripts do not work well as speaker’s notes.

One of the problems of writing a script and them memorising it is that you rarely talk the same ways as your write.  By only having bullet points to remind you of the key topics, you will find that you use your own natural conversational language rather than the more staid language you use when writing a formal document.

Secondly, it is very difficult to find your place in a script.  As soon as you deviate from the script, you will find it very difficult to find your place a start using it again.

Thirdly, if you are reading from a script, you will not be able to maintain eye contact with your audience.

For supporting the giving of a presentation I recommend using Cue Cards, See the earlier section entitled ‘Cue Cards’

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever


Signposts

January 5, 2010

Elsewhere, I have made a big play on not letting your audience get ahead of you.  And I stand by this 100%.

Do not take people in a straight line from start to finish, they will want to jump ahead of you.  The opposite is also true.  Your presentation should not be full of surprises and non-sequiturs.  Your presentation needs to take people along with it, so you do not want to jump from one subject to another.  It is preferable to take then on a gently meandering course.  Some signposts which point people in the direction you are going are always helpful.

Split the presentation up to make it easier for people to follow and understand.  Each new section will reawaken their interest if it has started to flag.  Use verbal signposts e.g. ‘Which leads me on to …’  ‘Now we will ….’ to smooth out the transitions between one sub-topic and the next.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever


Summary

January 5, 2010

There is an age-old saying when it comes to presenting:

Tell them what you are going to tell them,
 tell them, tell them what you have told them.’

This principle has stood the test of time.  It works.  By outlining the areas that you will be talking about it provides the audience with a structure.  This makes it easier for them to follow your presentation.  At the end of your presentation, do not forget to summarise the key point(s) and then make a call to action.

Once you have made the call to action end the presentation.  Do not be tempted to add extra bits that you have thought of as you were going along, or pieces that you inadvertently missed earlier in the presentation.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever