We’ve all had our grievances with PowerPoint at one time or another. Whether you are in school or in a board meeting, no matter how much time you put into your PowerPoint, things just seem to go wrong (example: “Where did all my pictures and video go?!”)
Well, since we here at the Video Experts get so many questions about PowerPoint (the seemingly simple yet purely evil Microsoft Office app) we will be producing a series about how to create a functioning PowerPoint presentation that won’t fail on you, especially when you need it most.
For today’s lesson we will have to start with the basics; what you include on your PowerPoint slide to enhance your presentation and simple design.
A Power Point presentation is just that, a presentation. The slides on the screen are meant to enhance whatever it is you are talking about. A common mistake that many people make is put down exactly what they are saying directly onto their PowerPoint. This is helpful if it will be distributed or downloaded later, or if there is no presenter at all and the Power Point lives on the web. My suggestion here would be to have a Power Point for presenting, and another for distribution. Trust me… you are doing your audience a favor. The slide is not your teleprompter, learn your presentation before reciting it in front of the people that matter.
Include key points and visual aids on your slides. Like I said, not every line of your presentation should be on your slides, but a key idea, a quote, or a question may drive home the point of what you are talking about to your audience. Don’t fill up one slide with a ton of information. First of all, you don’t want the words to be so small that no one can read them. If you fill up a slide, just continue on a new slide. It doesn’t have to be words either, it could be a well placed picture or graph. Video is a little tougher. You could place a wmv file in your video and hope/pray it works. Just make sure when you move your Power Point, you move your video with it (ALWAYS.) We will go into how to embed a video into Power Point at a different time, but if you can, avoid it.
Don’t get crazy with animations, transitions, and sound FX. Seriously… we aren’t in the fifth grade. We’re not impressed with the picture of the puppy that keeps peaking out from behind the graph at the annual fund meeting and neither is your boss. Actually… just don’t use them… at all. There is a time and a place, and sure there are many exceptions, but the star wipe you added to every slide is more distracting than amusing. This goes double for sound FX as well. In addition to the sound FX, please don’t add music… your presentation doesn’t need a soundtrack.
Keep your background simple. Text is hard to read against the Jackson Pollock you set as the background of your presentation. Keep the abstract art out of your presentation… unless you are presenting abstract art, but then again having a clean background in that situation would help as well.
It’s happened to all of us where your presentation is perfect. The font is neat, the wording is clever, and the design is edgy yet elegant. Then you throw it on a flash drive and open it on a work or school computer. Then starts your nightmare. All the font has changed, the design skewed, and your pictures… well.. they’re gone. What happened!? It could be the version of Power Point on this computer is different from the one on your home computer, or it could be a great number of other things. How do you stop this from happening to you? Save your slides as JPEGs. Yes that’s right, save them so that the format can’t change no matter what version of Power Point you are on. Since the slides are now just pictures you must make sure all of your spelling and grammar is correct since the slides will no longer be editable. This means no last minute changes, BUT you will not have any of the aforementioned problems. Also, use the presenter view for a more natural presentation.