As a presentation designer, I’ve dealt with a wide array of clients. Designers of all types probably have stories of clients who try their best to impart their own design advice, but go horribly wrong. It’s not their fault though and it never angers me. A vast majority of the population have never been taught or researched on their own what effective PowerPoint design is. Thus, most people don’t even realize that the status quo (think bullet points, small font, clip-art, boomerang animations) is wildly ineffective.
I wanted to share with you some of the presentation “advice” that has been imparted on me by clients that, if I had actually implemented them, would have landed me in presentation prison. And surely in presentation prison they subject you to listening to hours of monotone presentations that are painfully boring and abrasive to your eyes, complete with the hammering duck. All of these requests were really asked of me. Naturally I don’t answer them in real life as I answer them here. I make the same points, only nicely.
- That font is too big
I’m sorry, what? It’s too big? Too big for you to read? How close is your face to the screen that you can’t read a sentence/phrase that fits on a PowerPoint slide. How big is this screen you’re using? I realize that using large fonts is startling to many because we’re so used to squinting while trying to read bullet point sentences. So to see a slide with just one big impactful word is a bit jarring. However, using large font is effective and only makes it easier for everyone in the audience to read.
- I realize this graph is confusing. How about we make it so small and have it appear and disappear so quickly that the audience only gets a glimpse of it.
Presentations are created for nearly every industry and topic, so it is inevitable that the content and data displayed in a graph may be confusing to some. However, if you believe it is important data that needs to be imparted, don’t let the fact that it is a graph get in the way. There are many ways to display your data without the dull, and even if there is a lot of data, you can use certain techniques to bring out what is most important. That way the audience focuses on the important bit of the graph and understands that the rest is important but secondary. Nancy Duarte’s slide:ology book (see right column) does a great job of showing you how to creatively and simply display your data.
- I know the presentation looks better with images and less text, but I need my bullet points to remember what I’m talking about
This is unfortunate, because the presenter isn’t addressing the real problem, which is the fact that he or she doesn’t know their content well enough to be presenting it to an audience who is sacrificing their time (and sometimes money) to listen to them. You don’t “need” your bullet points, you need to PRACTICE! It’s not fair to the audience that they are subjected to a bullet point ridden PowerPoint presentation because the presenter failed to prepare and practice.I realize that time is sometimes an issue. Just today I was asked to give a short presentation with only 10 minutes to prepare. In that case, with or without PowerPoint, it is still acceptable to bring notes with you. Avoid having notes on a large sheet of paper – opt for index cards instead. Olivia Mitchell offers some great tips about the lost art of notes at her blog.
- Don’t worry about the number of slides. If I can’t get to them all, I’ll just skip the last few.
I’m not worried about the number of slides – I’m worried about you presenting all of your slides and delivering what you promised you would to your audience. The number of slides is generally irrelevant. I tend to use many slides, but other presenters have successfully used few, or none. It’s not about how many, it’s how well.Timing is essential. I so often see presenters mistime their presentations and end up flying through the last few slides, so fast that I only get a fleeting glimpse of what’s on them. What if that was the most important information to me? It’s like having a story read to you but the last chapter is just skimmed over. Make sure you practice your presentation enough so you know exactly (give or take a few minutes) how long it will take to deliver all of your slides. If you may go over time, start removing them (but make sure you’re not removing slides crucial to your story).
- Make sure my logo, website, and phone number is on every slide
Of course, my first response is “why?” Are you afraid that the audience is going to forget who they’re talking to? If so, you have a bigger problem. Or will they want to call your 800 number during your presentation? Or visit your website? I hope not, because you’re up there presenting!It is absolutely not necessary to have this information on every slide. You’re chewing up valuable real estate if you’re putting a logo/URL/phone number on every slide. The first and last slide is perfectly fine. It’s a common understanding that contact info is usually found there. Granted, it’s not impossible to design a nice looking template which includes pieces of information like this, but it’s rare.
I get requests to do some wacky things when designing presentations. I love my clients and I love when requests like these come up because it only fosters good discussion, which is always welcomed. When you hire a presentation designer, you’re not only paying for their design skills, but you’re also paying for the time they spent researching this topic, along with related topics like brain research and principles of education.