An Education: In Presentations

Here are some great insights and tips from a trio of top presentation designers.

Rick Altman - Author of Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck and the updated version Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Still Suck.

Rick says:
• One of the reasons presentations suck is because people put too much text on their slides. To cut back, apply the three-word rule. Look at every bullet in your deck and ask yourself: could I shorten it to just three words? The answer won’t always be yes, but chances are you’ll still do some serious pruning.

• People become overwhelmed and quickly lose interest in slides that are busy and complex. To help people absorb what they see, present information in bite sized sequences. For example, when displaying a chart, start by showing the axes, then the bars, and then the lines. You’ll also probably do a better job of narrating such slides when you build them bit by bit.

• If you’re creating slides for someone else, provide extra directions and advice to the speaker in the notes field.

Nancy Duarte - principal of Duarte Design — the company that created the graphics for Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth, and author of Slide:ology and the just-published Resonate.

Nancy says:
• Presentations are a new form of literature and people need to develop presentation literacy skills.

• When designing a slide, think in terms of signal to noise ratio. Ask yourself: how challenging will it be for people to get the message? Then get rid of anything that might slow down the viewer’s ability to understand the point.

• One of the reasons PowerPoint is ‘broken’ is because people use slides like documents. In other words they create ‘slideuments’. To avoid that fate, pull off everything that’s a crutch for the presenter and just leave the information the audience has to remember.

Olivia Mitchell - Partner in a presentation skills training company called Effective Speaking based in Wellington, New Zealand.

Olivia says:
• Craft a solid, clear key message that is relevant to the audience, specific (the more specific the more memorable) and expressed in plain spoken language.

• Follow the advice of the Heath brothers who wrote the book Made to Stick. Tell a story first to create an emotional impact. Then follow up with the statistics.

• Use a metaphor when you’re speaking about a concept that’s new to the audience. To help listeners get the idea, compare the thing that’s unfamiliar to something that is familiar.