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Part IV: New Technology for Presentation... > 15 Tips for Creating Better Slides w...

Chapter 19. 15 Tips for Creating Better Slides with Presentation Software

  1. Allow an average of two minutes per slide. Use this rule of thumb to calculate the approximate number of slides you should use for your presentation. If your presentation includes complex diagrams or explanations, allow even more time per slide.

  2. Put your titles to work. Whenever possible, the title of a slide should state the conclusion you want the audience to reach or the action you want people to take.

  3. Use the “5 x 5” guideline for bullet-point slides. Limit the content of each slide to a maximum of five bullet points (including any subpoints) and a maximum of five words per bullet. Keep the grammar and style of bullet points consistent, and use a parallel structure for each point on a slide.

  4. Use phrases and key words that quickly communicate the essence of each point. Carefully choose your words for each slide. If lengthy explanations, long sentences, and/or detailed descriptions are necessary, keep those for your handouts. For bullet points, avoid using full sentences.

  5. Capitalize only the first letter of the first word and the first letter of proper nouns. Although some people like the look, capitalizing the first letter of every word in bullet points can cause slides to look busy, making them more difficult to read.

  6. Don’t “build” every slide. Audiences get weary of such repetition. The practice of revealing bullet points one at a time (the “build” technique) works well if not overdone. You can even “gray-out” points as you finish discussing them so the next point built on the slide will stand out more brightly. Also, avoid mixing different kinds of transition effects in the same presentation.

  7. Number every slide. This can help viewers catch up if they join the presentation late or if they lose the thread of the discussion.

  8. Adhere to color scheme or style guidelines used in your company. If you have freedom of choice for computer-projected slides, use dark colors for backgrounds or objects (like boxes, circles, lines, etc.) and light colors for text. For computer images projected to large audiences, information that is white or yellow on dark blue will be easier to read than the reverse.

  9. Consider using sans serif fonts (fonts without strokes or “feet” at the ends of the letters), as some people find them easier and faster to read when projected from a slide. Arial and Helvetica are sans serif fonts. When projecting your presentation for a large audience, a sans serif font might improve readability, particularly for people in the back of the room.

  10. Use a 24 point font size at the minimum, unless the audience is a small one. Do not expect your audience to be able to read a font smaller than 20 points.

  11. Pictures, photographs, and videoclips can break the monotony of slide after slide of bullet points. However, it is important to keep drawings and diagrams simple and to the point.

  12. Use clip art sparingly and preferably not at all. Some companies have even banned the use of clip art!

  13. Animating drawings (by building a slide in steps) is one of the simplest ways to keep an audience’s attention. Just don’t overdo it. While animation can help explain the flow of a complex process, too much animation keeps your audience waiting for the next visual trick, rather than paying attention to what you are saying.

  14. Have backups. If you are not sure that you will be able to project your presentation from your laptop computer, have a version printed on overhead transparencies as a backup.

  15. Remember the slides are not the messenger (you are). Your slides are just a communication aid.



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