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15 Guidelines to Effective Presentations
Enhancing your slide design and developing skills will ensure that your audience
not only stays awake but also receives your intended message.
Today’s technology has evolved with many new techniques and devices—ranging
from cell phones, e-mail, and Twitter to Face book, MySpace, and Instant
Messaging. However, two traditional communication skills must not be overlooked
and neglected. Effective presentations and reports are still essential skills for
trainers, as well as many businesspeople. This first article will review some basics
of designing and developing slides, along with some new technology suggestions.
Part 2 will provide pointers for delivering the presentation. Part 3 will cover report
Part 1 Designing and Developing Slides: The art of effective presentations
includes designing and developing slides, as well as mastering delivery techniques.
Enhancing these skills will ensure that the audience not only stays awake but also
receives your intended message. The following 15 guidelines should help you with
both designing and developing slides. I use Microsoft PowerPoint, but many of the
concepts and tips will work with Keynote or any other slide program.
1. Keep it simple. Limit the number of illustrations and reduce the number of
words. One concept on a slide is sufficient. Remember: Less is better!
2. Think and design visually. Avoid ordinary bullet lists by placing the words in
boxes, lines, circles, and odd shapes. Illustrate whenever possible with
appropriate pictures, clip art, or audio/video clips.
3. Go big and bold. Make font sizes large and readable from a distance. As a
general rule, bold most fonts to avoid the letters looking puny on the screen.
Try out your slides on a big screen in a presentation room, or stand
approximately six feet from the monitor and view the slides to make sure they
4. Remember: “Variety is the spice of life.” Be creative and find ways to
illustrate concepts. Pretend you are a marketing/packaging expert.
5. Use parallel construction within a visual. Make points all start with
things/objects (nouns)or with action words (verbs).Be consistent; but if you
have a valid reason, you can break the rules.
6. Use contrasting colors. Make sure all words and other elements stand out. Use
yellow or white on a dark background and black or dark colors on a light
background. Avoid a background or large spaces of pure white because that
can create a glare on the screen.
7. Separate the title from the body of the visual. Make sure the title stands out
from the rest of the slide by using boxes, lines, color, and size. The title should
be short but descriptive.
8. Vary font size according to importance. Make sub points a smaller size from
the main points. Keep font size big with 18 points an absolute minimum. Keep
in mind anything below 24 can be hard to read in a medium- to large-sized
room. In a title slide, make the title of the presentation the largest, with your
name the next size, followed by the company name in a slightly smaller size.
If you include a “by,” make it the smallest, as it is really not important or even
9. Avoid all uppercase letters. All capital letters are harder to read than
lowercase letters. You have your choice of two methods on words within the
slide: 1. Use initial caps on main words, or 2. capitalize only the first word in
a listing. With either choice, be uniform throughout the presentation.
10.Tie in clip art, illustrations, and photos to your message. Don’t just use
anything for entertainment value. Use clip art, illustrations, and photos to
make a point or show a concept.
11.Make borders around pictures. A border makes a picture or illustration look
more finished. Use one of the various frames available on the software or use
a simple black line of about 2.5 points.
12.Compress pictures. In Microsoft PowerPoint, use the compression tool to
reduce the size of the pictures, which will make your document take up less
13.Use the animation feature with a purpose. The animation feature allows you
to expose objects/words as you speak but make it work for you—not just
14.Avoid using random transitions. Change the type of transition only when you
want to make a dramatic change of subject—somewhat similar to a new
paragraph or section in writing. Don’t make the viewers begin to wonder how
he/she is going to bring in the next slide.
15.Plan ahead. Start early to design and develop your presentation because
everything takes longer than you think it is going to take. Plus, you need time
These guidelines will provide a basis for designing and developing slides for your
presentations. An old rule used to be called 7 x 7—no more than seven lines on a
slide with seven or less words on each line. As mentioned previously, less is better.
A trend is to occasionally put one or two words (or a short phrase) on the screen.
With too many words, you may tend to present by simply reading the words on the
slide. You should always have more to say than what is on the screen, but focus the
viewers so they are not reading one thing while you are discussing something
different. New technology add-ons are available that will enhance your
presentations. Check out www.presentationpro.comfor some of this technology.
The Website provides demos and free trials of many different packages. For
instance, you can buy add-on programs such as the following:
Templates, Graphics, and Icon—Enhance your boring PowerPoint
presentations and PowerPoint slides into high-impact, great-looking
presentations that get results.
File Compression—Provides up to 98 percent file compression of PowerPoint
and Word files without changing file formats.
Email Presenter—Sends multimedia presentations and newsletters that require
no download or attachments.
Power Converter—Converts your slides to Flash.
Quizzes or eLearning—Develops professional PowerPoint presentations and