Many of you have probably heard of a variety of “methods” to creating a PowerPoint presentation. I’ve often been asked, “What’s the best method?” Along those same lines I also hear, “How many slides should I have? How much time should I spend on each slide? What size font is the best?” Those questions are impossible to answer. Not with absolute certainty at least. That’s because there is no “right” way to create a presentation. There are certainly some methods that are ineffective (in my opinion), but there are aspects of presentation design where there is simply no right answer.
Some people use hundreds of slides. Others can effectively use a handful. Correspondingly, many people spend lots of time on each slide, while others spend just seconds. Font size? Whatever you think looks great. The bigger the better in my opinion, but as long as it’s legible by everyone in the audience, use the size that fits your style.
Giving my own opinion of what I (personally) think is the best method(s) to design presentations will be left for another post. What I want to accomplish in this post is to simply expose you to a variety of PowerPoint design methods so you can choose which method (or aspects of them all) you subscribe to.
I believe that effective presentation design is about freedom. PowerPoint templates have confined presenters for years to slides riddled with bullet points. To make matters worse, this style has been used by so many presenters that it’s become the norm. It’s actually what people think is the “right way” to design presentation slides. While I believe that effective presenting is about freedom to express your creativity, style, and personality, I am convinced that bullet point-riddled slides are DEFINITELY NOT an effective way to design slides.
Here are a few styles many presenters (that aren’t in the business of presentation consulting and design) may not have heard of. I certainly can’t write much about these methods that hasn’t already been written, so I’ll keep the descriptions very brief and I’ll offer a few links you can follow to learn more and see the examples in action.
Larry Lessig utilizes a quick progression of numerous slides. As he tells his story, the audience is glued to the screen, as if he’s narrating over a movie. It’s quite labor intensive to create PowerPoint using this method, but can reap great rewards. He uses simple design techniques: full screen images and isolated text.
- View his TED talk on how law is strangling creativity
- Garr Reynolds’ post on the Lessig method
- A Venture Capitalist blog highlighting the Lessig method
Kawasaki Method (aka the 10/20/30 Rule)
Guy Kawasaki’s simple method of 10 slides, 20 minutes, and a minimum of 30pt point font. This method may sound like it doesn’t make sense due to the variety of presentation needs, but Guy’s method was designed to save all those who sit through Venture Capitalist presentations, so use it where you find applicable.
Presentation Zen Non-Method
Coined by presentation guru Garr Reynolds, the Presentation Zen method isn’t a method at all. It’s more of an approach. There is no set number of slides, font size, time limit or pace. “At its heart,” Garr says, “Presentation Zen is about restraint, simplicity, and a natural approach to presentations.
- Guy Kawasaki’s 10 (really 13) questions with Garr about his Presentation Zen book
- Garr’s Blog
- Purchase “Presentation Zen” the book here
Only text…REALLY BIG TEXT!
Beyond Bullet Points Method
(via reader submission – Thanks David!)
Cliff Atkinson’s method of communicating by structuring around a story arc and storyboarding combined with impressive graphics, key metaphors, few bullets, use of color to highlight level of detail, and narrative headings.
You can also see other presentation bloggers’ posts about PowerPoint Design Methods here:
- Olivia Mitchell’s “Top 7 PowerPoint Slide Designs”
- Andrew Dlugan’s “Critique: Lessig Method Presentation Style”
- Denis François Gravel’s “To Boldly Go Beyond the Pie Chart”
How do you feel about using methods? Which is your favorite? Maybe you have your own method?