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Top Ten Tips for MS PowerPoint Users

Planning for a Presentation

An impressive presentation comprises three basic elements:

  • Content
  • Design
  • Delivery

While developing your content, ensure that it is logical, simple and clear. You must know what your audience needs and tailor the content for them.

As for the design, the primary concern is legibility – the golden rule is to avoid putting too much text on a slide and keep the font large enough to read easily. The text color should contrast well with the background color. Also make sure that your design complements your content and the background, images do not detract from the content. Images should actually work to support the text and the layout of text must bring important points to the fore.

A winning delivery is also important for a successful presentation. You must know how to engage your audience with eye contact and your own enthusiasm and confidence also matters to deliver the presentation effectively.

Using PowerPoint for Presentations

Now that you know the basic elements for a winning presentation, it’s time to get back to the basics. Here are a few tips that will prove helpful while working on Microsoft PowerPoint to prepare your presentation:

1) Choice of font – Serif fonts are the font styles like Times New Roman or Georgia that have serifs or "tails" at the ends of the lines. These tails help the letters fit together into words. Serif fonts tend to have a personal, humanistic character. Use serif fonts to “involve” readers with the body of your text. Fonts such as Arial and Verdana that have no tails are called Sans Serif ('sans' being a French term for 'without') Sans Serif fonts tend to have a technical, impersonal character. You can use sans-serif fonts to lend authority to your text. It is good to select serious font like Times New Roman for conservative audiences or serious messages. If your presentation is about technology or looks to the future, you may choose a clean, font like as Verdana or Tahoma.

2) Background color – Dark text on a light back ground looks good though you can also keep it other way round – dark background with light text. The key is to maintain a contrast. Always use font and background colors with a strong contrast, as colors often look paler when viewed on a projector and pale text may fade into the background. Also remember that backgrounds with patterns or textures can reduce readability of text so keep them plain. Lastly, keep your color scheme consistent throughout your presentation.

3) Slide designs – While using a design theme (in PowerPoint 2007) or design template (as in earlier versions of PowerPoint), select the one that is appropriate for your audience and the nature of your presentation. A plain and straightforward layout is best if you are presenting to business clientele. You may choose one that is full of colors and contains a variety of shapes if the presentation is aimed at young children. Once again, consistency is the key. Once you apply a design template, each slide must have the same custom look.

4) Use of extras – The use of graphic devices such as borders, boxes, lines and arrows should be minimum. You should avoid too many types of transitions in one presentation. Transitions are required at very few places to add emphasis and create a flow. Limit the use of animation and sound effects to provide highlights and emphasis as these can be distracting.

5) Use of images – Images need to be inserted when appropriate to a message on the slide. You may need an image to capture attention and clarify points, to explain, describe and show relationships. At times an image can also help you to limit the amount of text required for an explanation. Again, choose simple images, and keep only one image on a slide. You may vary the location of images on different slides though. Remember your audience and how they will respond to the images that you select.  

6) Use of key phrases – Seasoned presenters are known to use short, key phrases and only essential information. Do not cram your slides with detailed information that can be included on handouts for the audience. Limit your points on a slide to 3 to 6 points. Avoid sub-headings – you should rather break major points into separate slides.

7) Punctuation and all capital letters – Too much punctuation needlessly clutters PowerPoint slides and the use of all CAPS makes statements rather difficult to read – indeed it looks like SHOUTING at your audience.

8) Slide Layout – Your presentation slides should be easy to follow. The title should always be at the top of the slide where your audience expects to find it. Phrases for all presentations in Roman scripts should read left to right and top to bottom. Important information should be at the top of the slide. The layout of the slides should be such that viewers focus on the content of the presentation and not the special effects of PowerPoint.

9) Number of slides – Keeping the number of slides to a minimum helps to make a presentation more impressive. This becomes possible when you know how to use the key phrases to convey your ideas effectively. Limited number of slides also helps you to avoid the problem of continually changing the slides during the presentation.  

10) Compatibility with computers – You may have to prepare the PowerPoint presentation on one computer and deliver it through another. So use PowerPoint's Package for CD (PowerPoint 2007 and 2003) or Pack and Go (PowerPoint 2000 and before) feature if you burn your presentation onto a CD. With this a copy of Microsoft’s PowerPoint Viewer is added to the CD to run PowerPoint presentations on computers that do not have PowerPoint installed.

After the development of content for your presentation, all that is required a successful delivery of your ideas. Be confident and use the slides simply as support for your presentation!

About the Author:Frank Johnson is a regular editorial contributor on technology products and services that help small to mid size businesses.  To know more on development of effective PowerPoint presentations for your organization, you may interact with him here

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