When we are doing presentations and looking for a visual aid the most popular one chosen is PowerPoint. There are many reasons – its easy to use, has lots of templates, it’s the latest technology.

One of the first pitfalls occurs right here – we become so enamoured of PowerPoint the temptation is to use it all the time without checking if it is actually the most appropriate visual aid for this presentation and this venue. Sometimes PowerPoint is not the best aid and flip charts and whiteboards might serve just as well.

It is very easy to fall into the trap of reading your slides – the PowerPoint slides should be an aid to assist. Use them as your notes, your dot points and expand on them. The PowerPoint is not the communicator – it should be the assistant. Never forget that it is People that inspire and motivate People not software or computers.

Rule of thumb – keep it simple. Ensure that your slides are easy to read – usually 6 lines with 6 words in each line is a good guide. A good size font will assist readability. Don’t make your audience strain to see the slide – audiences are basically lazy – if they have to do too much work they will switch off.

Templates are wonderful but is that great template with the beautiful background and wonderful colours really appropriate for the information you want to present. Plain colours contrasting easily with your text will stand out more than lots of patterns and images.

Animation and sound effects can add impact – in moderation. Just because you can have all the bells and whistles do you really need to use them. Always come back to simple is best, is it appropriate, can be it be seen, do I really need to use it. Simple questions that will keep you on track and help you to avoid some of the pitfalls of PowerPoint.

How many slides is too many? A good question that depends on the length of the presentation, how complex the information you are presenting and the aim of your presentation. 200 slides in 15 minutes is too many – an actual presentation I was at had this many slides. The presenter could have walked away and left us watching the presentation – that’s if we could have absorbed the information. The slides were going so fast we just did not have time to digest the ideas. Again less is best – a few good slides to highlight your main points will be more effective than an overabundance of slides used because you could.

These are a few of the main pitfalls to avoid when using PowerPoint. It is a great tool, the emphasis is on the word tool, use it wisely and it will add immensely to your presentation.

Trish @ Trischel

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