PowerPoint is powerful, dynamic software for creating interesting, eye-pleasing presentations to be delivered to large or small audiences in formal or informal settings. However, as has been said before, never let the visuals become your presentation. Visuals support your message and capture your information is a way that is easy for your audience to understand. The old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is true here. Rather than trying to explain a complex process or procedure, a visually pleasing graphic can do the trick and you can explain the intricacies and interrelationships it represents without spending valuable time describing what to visual displays and at the same time, boring your audience and losing their interest.
In order to maximize the impact of your use of PowerPoint, there are some guidelines that should be followed. Initially, when you are drafting out your presentation materials, take the time to plan your presentation and determine when you will use certain visuals or when to reveal certain critical facts. This means concentrating on the content and the organization of that content. It would be a mistake to simply type out what you are going to say and run the risk of reading it to your audience from the screen. Use bullet points to highlight your significant points which will force the audience to listen to you elaborate on them. This will also force you to be prepared to provide the information and actually address the crowd, make eye contact and engage with them. When you plan your presentation, maintain a logical sequence of points for discussion and elaboration. This should help you be more conversational with your audience and will make your presentation much more interesting.
There are three basic slide content rules for composing effective PowerPoint slides which need to be addressed here. Firstly, only focus on one topic or theme for each slide. The will help you keep your content organized and focused. Remember that the content of your slide supports what you are saying; it should not contain every word you are saying. Avoid adding a second topic to a slide if there is not a lot of text on the slide. If you feel that the slide appears empty, add an appropriate illustration to fill out the slide. But do not overfill a slide with too much text. Add a second slide on that topic and include (cont’d) beside the title of that second slide.
Secondly, the content of each slide should adhere to the 6 X 6 rule of composition. What does this mean? You should use a maximum of six bullet points per slide with a maximum of six words per bullet. This rule helps you keep your slides clear and uncluttered. Your audience can quickly read your slide and then focus on what you have to say. To accomplish this, use short phrases and not full sentences. Leave out unnecessary articles (such as “the” or “a”), pronouns (such as “your” or “its”), and adjectives (such as “extremely” or “very”). In this regard, also do not put punctuation at the end of a bullet. Applying this rule will keep your bullet points short and to the point rather than too long and wordy. The audience will focus more on you and your dynamic delivery and less on the words on the screen.
The third point is that of “parallel construction”. This means that each bullet point must start with the same part of speech, such as a verb, noun, or gerund (an action word ending in “ing”). This rule ensures that your bullet phrases read easily and clearly. Consistent phrasing makes your presentation more professional. Mixing action words with nouns or descriptors leaves a confusing impression and shows general lack of good planning.