Six Major Mistakes When Doing Powerpoint Presentations
1. Text Too Small
Quite often, the text used on slides is much too small to read
once projected on a screen. A good test to use is go to the back
of the room where the furthest audience member would be sitting
before you do your presentation. Put on the slide with the
smallest sized text. If you can’t make out the text easily, then
neither will any audience member sitting in the back of the room.
You will have to make your text size larger (I would suggest at
least 35-40 font size minimum). Also, it is a good idea to use
sans-serif fonts like Arial (rather than serif fonts like Times
Roman) on slides since they are easier on the eyes on a screen.
2. Too Much Text
Another major mistake that many people make is trying to fit in
too much text on any single slide. It is a nightmare for audiences
when they see a slide jammed full of text. If audience members
start reading all the text on such a slide, they will not be able
to listen to you as the speaker at the same time. A good rule of
thumb to use is have no more than four to five bullet points per
slide (I often use just three points) and no more than five words
per point. If you have more bullet points, divide them up on
3. Reading Off Each Word
A sure sign of an ineffective presenter is when he or she looks
at the screen and reads off every last word up on the slides. From
a presentation skills point of view, this is bad because the
presenter loses eye contact with the audience. You also don’t want
the audience to have to look at your backside all the time. Again,
limit the number of words on each bullet point so that you can
speak more naturally by expanding on what is actually on each
4. Abusing The Bells And Whistles
Another indicator of an inexperienced Powerpoint user is when too
many of the fancy functions from the program are used in the
presentation. This would include the use of too many different
slide transitions, animations, sound effects, etc. You are not
there to impress the audience with your vast knowledge of the
different bells and whistles that Powerpoint has. These can get
rather tiring on the audience. Keep things simple and remember
that the slides are there to enhance your verbal presentation, not
the other way around.
5. Ineffective Use Of Images
It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words and images
can definitely enhance your presentation. The key is to use them
to illustrate major points you are making. Don’t have too many
images on any single slide. I usually use just one image per
slide. Make sure the image is good enough quality by testing it
out on a wall or screen first. Sometimes images that look fine on
your computer monitor may end up looking bad when blown up on a
wall. Also, make sure any images you use are relevant to the
points you are making during your presentation. Don’t just put up
images for the sake of having pictures up there. There must be
some obvious connection between the images you use and the points
you are trying to make.
6. Not Having Backups
Technology is technology. This means that it can fail when least
expected. I’ve had to resort to using somebody else’s laptop when
my own failed. It was a good thing that I had a backup copy of my
Powerpoint file on a flash drive. From a speaker point of view, it
is also a good idea to be able to deliver your presentation
without the slides just in case of projector failure. I often
bring some props to use in case I have to do a sudden version of
my talk without slides and yes, I have had to do this in one or
So there you have it. If you can avoid just these six major
mistakes that many presenters make out there, the effectiveness of
your presentations will be increased dramatically. After you have
created them, rehearse your presentations in advance with the
slides, as your efforts will make you appear to be a more
professional presenter in front of audiences.
Six Ways To Transform Your Presentations
1. Throw away PowerPoint.
PowerPoint presentations are the norm but are they the best way
to communicate your message?The trouble with them is that they
lock you into a straitjacket – you have to follow what is written
on the screen.The audience reads the slides and it does not listen
to you. Most PowerPoint presentations have too many slides with
too much information on each.It becomes a dreary list. Try to
condense your message into a small number of key points and then
deliver them directly. Look at and speak to your audience and use
very few or no slides at all.Replace Powerpoint with directness
2. Speak from the Heart.
Nothing persuades like passion – so be passionate about your
message.Personal stories and strong feelings can sway audiences
much more than dry facts and statistics.Of course if you can back
up your personal feelings with supporting data then so much the
better.But start from the personal – how it relates to you and how
it relates to them – the audience.Lessons from personal experience
that are relevant to their lives and careers are interesting and
powerful ways of holding their attention.
3. Use Humor.
Many speakers shy away from humor because they worry the jokes
may fall flat.But it is generally a risk worth taking.Audiences
appreciate a speaker who tries to entertain rather than just
inform.Choose your humorous lines carefully and then rehearse the
words and timing so that you can deliver them with
confidence.Self–deprecating jokes are safe bets.Making a joke
about some well-known figure at the conference can work well too
but it is wise to check with them first.Of course racist, sexist
or offensive material should always be avoided.
4. Walk the Talk.
One of the great things about not using a slide presentation is
that you do not have to hide behind a lectern pressing the
mouse.You can roam the stage.As you walk you should look straight
at the audience and ensure eye contact with people. This delivers
energy and conviction that can never be achieved from behind a
5. Vary your Pitch.
Many speakers deliver their talks in a monotone – same pace, same
volume, same tone throughout.The audience will find it much more
interesting if you deploy variety in your style of speech.Your
tone should be rich and clear – louder and softer as
needed.Sometimes the most powerful points can be delivered in a
very quiet voice- with the audience breathless to hear.One of the
most potent and underused weapons in the speaker’s armoury is the
pause.Used with effect it can build the anticipation, impact and
retention of a key message.
6. Keep it Simple.
Tell them what they are going to hear and why it is important.
E.g. ‘I am going to give you four key messages that will enable
you to double your market share this year.’Then tell them.Finally
summarise and reprise the main points.Finish with a strong and
motivational summary.Long, complex presentations may appear
sophisticated but often they will lose the audience and little is
retained.The best presentations engage the audience with clear
messages that are inspirational, powerful and easily remembered.