PowerPoint: The creative kid in the Microsoft family and the younger brother of Word and Excel. At some point in our lives, we have all had to prepare a presentation with this software and then reveal our creation, accompanied by a speech, in front of a crowd. Some people are still recovering from the horror, others can’t wait for their next try (for the latter, check out our guide on how to become an entrepreneur). However you feel about presentations, from university days to professional work settings like conferences and client proposals, these moments are inevitable. Some people rarely have to give presentations while others do it quite frequently.
From the opposite perspective, we’ve all sat in the audience and witnessed many presentations – from those that deserve a standing ovation to the not-so-successful ones. We all would like to believe that when our turn comes, we will know how to dodge the clichés and leave a good, if not phenomenal, impression on our spectators. Along with creating a business website, beautiful business cards, and sitting in a fancy office, the packaged deal of a well-suited professional isn’t complete without memorable presentation skills. So with that in mind we've compiled 11 PowerPoint tips to help you along the road of your own professional growth.
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11 best tips to implement in your next PowerPoint presentation
01. Leave out the text. Yes, all of it!
Let’s start out with a crazy idea: What if you don’t include any text in your slides at all? Instead, just pick a few high-quality images that fit the narrative of your presentation. Apart from ending up with beautiful content, you will greatly impress your audience due to the fact that human beings are commonly visual creatures. Also, with no text to support your presentation, you will develop your verbal skills like never before – it’s like riding a bicycle without training wheels for the first time.
02. Insert quotes between slides
How often has it been the case that after going to the movies or hanging out with friends, your strongest memory was a specific phrase that someone said? This is the power of quotes. It doesn’t mean that you should base your presentations strictly on them, but rather you should include a couple of handpicked ones that can add a dash of spice to your PowerPoint slides. This is especially true if you find a quote from a renowned scholar that affirms your claims. Just don’t forget to double-check that you have indeed quoted the correct person ;)
03. Don’t read, speak
This one shouldn’t even be on the list – we just wanted to really drill it in. More than a tip, it’s an unspoken rule to not read off your slides. Regardless of the time and the resources that you invest in the visual aspect of your presentation, it should play nothing more than a supporting role in your show. People came to listen to what you have to say, so present your ideas with passion and show them that you know your stuff and truly believe in whatever it is you’re talking about. Your slides are merely a complement to your speech. If you do need a script, that’s totally acceptable (we’re all human, no one has a perfect memory). Plan this aid ahead of time by preparing a sheet of paper that orders the topics you’ll be mentioning. Just don’t lose time reading your ‘cheat sheet’ out loud, as nothing shows more confidence than looking your audience right in the eyes.
04. Show-off with some stats
“Against facts, there are no arguments.” Here’s one quote that we simply can’t stop repeating in our heads when it comes to verifying our thoughts. Do you know why it works? Because we as humans love facts! And we love to be convinced by them. You can use a table to display your data as long as it’s carefully created to show only the essential info – that is, don’t make it look like the Matrix Code. However, the best option is a well-designed graph, which has superpowers in terms of catching our audience’s attention and reinforcing our opinions when it comes to certain arguments.
05. Pause for a moment
Although a short break might seem like a bold move in the middle of your PowerPoint presentation, it can, in fact, work greatly to your advantage. Think: nowadays, in the era of social media and texting, many people make sure to have their finger on the pulse of the latest information – to share it or tweet it out. There’s no fighting this, so you might as well use it to your advantage. How? If your presentation includes a shocking revelation or astounding data, try taking a short break right before presenting it (half a minute is enough but you should read your room) and encourage your audience to share the upcoming information on social media. The same goes for data you’ve already presented – like asking a question, then allotting time for people to organize their thoughts before answering it. These pauses can make a huge difference in the way your messages come across.
06. There’s no shame in using a template
Between us: unless you are a designer or someone with excellent taste in aesthetics, it can be quite difficult to create visually impressive presentations. Thankfully, there are professionals and companies that specialize in creating templates specifically with people like you in mind. You can even choose one of the basic options that come with PowerPoint, as they were created to take into account all the aspects of good design and trends that boost attention and retention – plus, you’ll probably be more than satisfied with the final result. If you do decide to go with a premade template, pick a different color than what’s offered to distance yourself from the gray and blue clichés. And never, ever, under any circumstances, mix different templates. The point here: consistency is key.
07. Leave the paragraphs behind
In the age of millennials and overuse of technology, staying focused on one task at hand has more often than not resulted in epic failure – like trying to study for your next exam while feeling the urge to also watch TV and check your Instagram feed. With words in a PowerPoint presentation, the same concept applies. Your audience will undoubtedly struggle to hear your speech while reading the long text in your slides. The main thing to keep in mind with words in a presentation is that quality over quantity wins every time. Although it might be tempting to use long phrases or lengthy paragraphs to explain your ideas, this will do your presentation more harm than good. It will devalue your speech and cause general confusion throughout the crowd. What you should do is list off key points per slide that provide a roadmap for the topics you will verbally mention – this will keep your audience focused and engaged.
08. Practice makes ‘perfect’
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! This is especially important if it’s your first time giving a presentation (or if you want to hide in the nearest cave when you hear the words ‘public speech’). In order for you to feel familiar and confident with your content, you should first create an order for your presentation with data points. Then, present to an audience of just yourself a few times to make sure that you didn’t leave anything out. The next step is body language, which you can check by practicing your speech in front of the mirror or filming yourself. Lastly, practice in front of a small group and ask for their feedback. With these necessary steps, you’ll finally be ready to speak in front of a crowd with the confidence of Scandal’s Olivia Pope.
09. Keep up the rhythm
As nerve-wracking as it can be, it’s very important to keep your cool while presenting. In presentation words, there is a balance between speaking 100 MPH and pausing too often between words and sentences. You don’t want your audience to lose attention, become bored, or worst of all, doubt your confidence. Therefore, you should try to keep things as natural as possible by speaking in the same rhythm that you are used to talking in your daily life. In fact, the occasional pause to catch your breath or to take a sip of water when necessary is the perfect amount of silence to allow your information to sink in with your listeners. And no matter what, remember that you are the specialist and hold all the knowledge about this subject – so hold onto that confidence!
10. Remember that PowerPoint is your friend
There is no reason to be afraid of PowerPoint – actually, it’s the opposite. The more you know about PowerPoint, the more secure you will feel that your presentation is the best it can possibly be. Watch tutorials on YouTube, look for tips online, and above all, learn the software’s shortcuts on your keyboard, mouse, and even on that weird clicker thing used to change slides. During presentations, it’s common that people will ask you to go back to the previous slide or bring up a topic earlier than expected. Therefore, you must know how to navigate through your presentation in Presentation Mode. There is nothing worse than having to go back to the editing screen in order to find that lost slide.
11. Take your presentation to the next level
Want to take your presentation from the ground floor to the penthouse? Create it on a one-page website. The advantages of using a website platform over a standard presentation software are unarguable. For starters, you’ll replace the need for multiple slides by having your information accessible on one long scrolling page. And with the Wix Editor, you can easily embed some pretty stunning features, like transitions with parallax effects and scroll anchoring. Plus, your presentation is accessible from any device, without the need to send it through email, bring a USB drive, or carry your laptop (and search aimlessly for the connection cable). The best part of it all: if you’ve published your site, you can simply share a link with your audience to allow them to browse it afterward – including your contact info, social links, and the other ways you choose to promote your work online.
Bonus Tip: It goes without saying that as a professional you should avoid adding clipart, slow-motion transition effects, sound effects, and CAPS LOCK at all times in any of your presentations.