Before PowerPoint, lectures and presentations used nothing more than blackboards, overhead projectors or large pieces of paper to illustrate points. Today, these same lectures and presentations can be more effective with the use of PowerPoint, a slide show program that comes with Microsoft Office suite. Both new and advanced users can create a presentation using this software, following basic tutorials. However, just knowing how to use this software does not guarantee good PowerPoint presentations.
The most important characteristic of a good PowerPoint presentation is proper spelling and grammar. Even with the most amazing message, you will lack authority if you present it with spelling or grammar errors. Perform a final spell check. If you are not familiar with grammar, have a friend or colleague check it for you. Proper font type and size is also important. Multiple types of fonts or dressy, novelty fonts are distracting. Many fonts differ from one computer to the next which can cause problems if you have to switch computers. To solve these problems, stick to basic fonts such as Times New Roman, Geneva, or Arial. Use a font size of at least 28 so that your words will be seen without problems.
Integrating colour properly can make or break your PowerPoint presentation. First, using compatible colours is a must. A colour wheel is helpful in finding colours that go together and avoiding those that clash. Experimenting with colours will help you get the best theme, however, dark text on light backgrounds is easiest to read and generally looks best. Add colour to enhance pieces of boring text, to highlight important phrases. This will help the audience assimilate the information.
Adding movies, images and sounds to a PowerPoint helps draw attention to important pieces of information and makes the presentation more interesting overall. However, using too much multimedia can be distracting and confusing to the audience, making it harder to retain important text information presented. A good rule is one multimedia item per page or fewer, with text introducing or summarising it. Avoid using sounds during every transition. Do not use images as backgrounds either, as this is unsightly and distracting.
A PowerPoint presentation is effective when it successfully keeps the attention of the audience and assists viewers in retaining information. Using a slow, steady pace is integral to allowing this to happen. Leave enough time so that all audience members can fully absorb the message, but not so long that they get bored. Other aspects to consider include making sure your slides are clutter-free, integrating participation in the presentation and keeping transitions short but attention-grabbing without using sound bites. Preview your presentation before you present it. And add as much flair and personality as you can, given the content.
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- TLC Proposal Homepage: "Creating Effective PowerPoint Presentations"; Michael A. Russell, Walter M. Shriner
- Center for Community Based and Nonprofit Organizations Austin Community College; Effective PowerPoint Presentations; September 2004
- International AIDS Society; "Guidelines for producing effective PowerPoint presentations at IAS 2009"; June 2009