A simple technique I learnt early on in my career to help a presentation flow and create a conversation with your audience is name each presentation slide. You will have three things to remember an say about each slide as you present it – the strap line, the content and the link to the next slide.
When you start to describe the content of the slide you can begin by naming it. Don’t make in too complicated and try to use a name that is associated with the context, theme or perhaps the shapes on the slide. Here are a few examples so that you get the hang of what I mean – ‘bubble slide’, ‘three squares’, ‘wheel of fortune’, ‘process spaghetti’, ‘inputs, outputs and outcomes’, etc.
Keep using the slide name making reference when to it as you build your story with words, diagrams and text. If you are asked questions at the end of the presentations try to bring the name into the answer. The more you use it the more people will remember the slide and of course your presentation.
If you are really bold you can invite your audience to join in with the appreciations of your lovely ‘clouds and arrows’ slide!
Perhaps one of the worst sins you can commit as a presenter is to run over time. We have all been there watching someone plough through endless slides, going into magnificent detail – that’s not required. Taking little notice of the yawns and fidgeting in the
room. Worst of all ignoring the chairman, frantic waving and calling out of “One minute to go”. Don’t do it. No one thanks you for it and I have yet to hear anyone say “that’s a shame that you kept to your allotted time I would have given up my lunch for more slides”. It’s also not fair on the next speaker who has less time available and has to start their turn with a somewhat annoyed and bored group of listeners.
I also find that if I ma the one waiting I am rubbish when i start my presentation. I just think that everyone is already switched off and fed up with the conference or meeting.
Indeed, delivering your thoughts in less time than is allotted will please the organisers, the audience and your self. Remember – ‘less is more’. Leave your viewers hungry form more information, but not an incomplete story or argument.
I like to us e a few rules for my slides that I hope makes them more attractive and readable by the audience.
- The slide should have some level of symmetry or balance. For example if you have some bullets on the left maybe an image or diagram on the right to ‘balance’ the slide. Imagine a pivot in the middle of the slide and the words or images have weight – now will it fall to the right or left?
- Choose your colours wisely. Ask your self whether the colours go together and what the colour combination means. Do your colours look like the colours used in any brand that you know – this may be good or bad. It’s also good to keep some consistency across the slide pack. Using a different set of colours on each slide suggests that the slides have come from different origins. I am not a great lover of coloured fonts – but they can soften the impact of the writing. For example dark grey can look better than black. Dark blue is also effective and quite easy to read. Please avoid writing in red or green. Those of us who are colour blind just can’t read it. Even red on white is very difficult at a distance. This by the way is true if you are using a flip chart – put down the red pen and pick up the black or blue.
- Most people read slides from left to right. It is often best to place bullets on the left and supporting images on the right. When using a diagram and bullets you may like to swap this over. As the diagram/graph may be self explanatory and the bullets just pulling our some key points that if read first would not make sense.
- Best to leave off full stops at the end of bullets – it just looks messy and distracts the eye.
- Remember that you may be asked to print your slides so anything other than a white background uses lots of ink. The old style of yellow type on a blue background is indeed quite easy to read on a screen but now looks very dated and a good quality printed version is hard to create.
- Add automatic page numbering via the master – very helpful if you muddle up the printed slides as you are preparing for the big day. If you are presenting using a handout it is also much easier to ask your colleagues to turn to page seven, than to look for the page with the big graph and four bullets.
- To keep things simple it is often best to split the slide into three zones. These three zones will also help you in presenting the slide which we will come on to later. You don’t have to stick to this layout but it is a good place to start and seems to work quite well.
- Top, where the strap line goes. The sentence that captures what the slide is all about.
- The main part of the slide split into two or three areas vertical or horizontal areas for words and images
- The bottom of the slide – often not used for bullets or diagrams but containing page numbers, copyright, logos, etc. The bottom of the slide can also contain the lead in to the next slide. For, some this is a sort of end of slide strap line and for others a small prompt or just a virtual zone that you need use to create the link to the next slide.
Describing your presentation with a title helps convey the content to your audience, set the tone of what is to come and also provides a reference, should, for example, you want to create a series of presentations. However, often I see people worrying (or even agonising) about the title of their presentation long before the basic concept and structure is created. It is usually far better to start putting together your structure and topics first and think about a title towards the end or once you have started to practice.
However, it is not always the fault of the author. When a conference programme or even an informal meeting programme is assembled the title of your presentation is sometimes added for you. Don’t worry it is almost traditional for presenters to veer away from the title from the first slide. Worrying about this may well hamper the creation and delivery of your presentation. One trick is to add the title or an explanation of the content of your presentation after the main title. You have probably seen it done before?
Here are a few examples I have made up to give you and idea of what I mean.
Developments in the UK gas industry – Why we need to develop biomethane as an alternative to imported gas before 2020
Lessons learnt from implementing the new IT system – How we can use our new project management and change skills to transform our customer journey.