When pondering what makes a good PowerPoint presentation, there are basically two areas that the mind is drawn to: the technical use of PowerPoint (how you can present your images in the best way etc), and the practical aspects of delivering that presentation (how big is your audience and can the members at the back see the screen?). The following is an overview that covers both aspects and serves as a good starting point for anyone who has to give a presentation with little previous experience to help them.
A good PowerPoint presentation:
- is targeted precisely at your audience. Your viewers will be turned off by presentations that don’t communicate effectively using language they understand, or that present information that they don’t find useful.
- is tightly focused on its subject, with no irrelevant topics clouding the discussion. Avoid going off on unplanned tangents!
- is structured well with slides that follow a logical sequence that your audience finds easy to follow.
- has a good balance between images and text and other forms of media.
- uses themes (colours, fonts and effects) that are appropriate for the subject and that reinforce the presentation’s message.
- uses artwork (charts, images, video, shapes etc) that support the message and that don’t distract or confuse. If you want to show the growth of your company in the last financial year – use a colourful chart! Charts are simple to use and they present information in an easy to digest way.
- presents information in the most appropriate format. Data should be presented in tables where appropriate, or charts if they transmit the message more effectively. And don’t forget that there is a large selection of chart types to choose from.
- uses sound and video only where it enhances the presentation. Too much is worse than none at all.
- employs animations (including transitions) only where appropriate. If you go overboard, you can distract your audience and take the focus away from the presentation’s subject.
- is accompanied by handouts for the members of the audience to take away. They then have something concrete to refer to later when they try to recall the facts presented.
- affords time at the end for a question and answer session in which the audience can clarify any matters they are unsure of.
The above is more a bulleted checklist, whereas what follows describes in more depth how to create a good presentation.
Think About Your Audience
The most important element of your PowerPoint presentation is…. your audience. Always. Neglect it at your peril!
Different audiences respond differently to the same presentation. A presentation that you’re using to pitch an idea to someone will have a very different feel to a presentation you’re using to share information with colleagues. In the former case, you’re trying to “sell” the idea to someone and you want them to be seduced by the benefits of “buying”, but in the latter you’re sharing information that your colleagues need to accomplish a task – you don’t need them to buy into something as the decision has already been made. If you have a desired response as a goal, for example selling a product, then you will want to use language that sells the product. You might emphasize features and benefits.
There are also some practical considerations, such as audience size. The larger the audience, the bigger your screen must be so that everyone in the room can see the presentation. If you don’t have a large screen, you may need to make fonts bigger, and that may mean breaking information into more slides with less information on each. Similar consideration should be given to any audio that is used – can people at the back of the room hear it comfortably?
Find out what kind of background, knowledge and experiences the members of your audience have. People who are already familiar with the subject matter won’t need so much background information and ongoing explanation as people who are new to the subject.
Always rehearse your presentation. You might think that you know your presentation off by heart because you created every slide, but you won’t know how it hangs together until you present it. Always rehearse, and preferebly to a real live human being who gives you feedback.