There’s actually a week in February called that: “Just Say No to PowerPoint Week.” Really. Initiated by a communication consultant in California, it’s her attempt to get presenters to focus on one-on-one communication instead of hiding behind the crutch that PowerPoint can be.
While I can understand her thinking—PowerPoint can really suck the life out of presentations—I won’t go so far as to admonish presenters to “just say no to PowerPoint.”
Instead, I’d like to offer some guidelines for PowerPoint quality that I wish more presenters would say “yes” to!
1. Be purposeful. Use a visual only when it fulfills what I call the UR rule. In other words, will it help the audience Understand or Remember something? If not, it has no purpose. And with no purpose, it detracts from your presentation.
2. Keep it simple . Use just key words and phrases. You never need to use full sentences on a PowerPoint slide.
3. Use large type. Minimum 30 pt. for text, 40 pt. for headlines.
4. Follow the six by six rule: no more than six lines per visual, no more than six words per line.
5. Use pictorials. By this I don’t necessarily mean pictures, although photos can be great choices. I’m thinking in terms of the
visual representation of text and numbers, such as charts and graphs. I’d stay away from clip art, which seldom fulfills the UR Rule.
6. Use appropriate contrast in your color choices: light type (white or yellow) on a dark (blue) background is the most readable.
7. Be careful of animation. It takes up time and takes the focus off of you. In fact, you can say that about most of the “bells and whistles” of PPt, whether animated, flying bullets, timed slide transitions, or sound effects.
8. Insert a black slide occasionally. When there’s nothing on the screen, it means the audience will be paying attention to you, not the visual. That should always be your objective!
My guiding philosophy about being a presenter is that the focus should be on you. Visuals that are complex, hard to read, busy, noisy or never-ending don’t allow that to happen. Visuals should complement and enhance your presentation, but never stand alone or take away from it.