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The Seven Deadly Sins of Powerpoint Presentations

By

Dr. Joseph Sommerville, The Presentation

Dr. Joseph Sommerville, “The Presentation Expert”, Principal of Peak Communication Performance.

It’s not surprising Powerpoint© slideshows have become the norm for visuals in most business presentations. They are quick to produce, easy to update and effective to inject visual interest into the presentation. However, they can also spell disaster even for experienced presenters. The key to success is to make certain your slide show is a visual aid and not a visual distraction. For the best results, avoid these common “seven deadly sins” of Powerpoint© presentations.

1. Slide Transitions And Sound Effects.
They become the focus of attention, which in turn distracts the audience. Worse yet, when a presentation containing several effects and transitions runs on a computer much slower than the one it was created on, the result is a sluggish, almost comical playback. Such gimmicks rarely enhance the message you’re trying to communicate. Unless you are presenting at a science fiction convention, leave out the laser-guided text!

Leave the fade-ins, fade-outs, wipes, blinds, dissolves, checkerboards, cuts, covers and splits to Hollywood filmmakers. Even “builds” (lines of text appearing each time you click the mouse) can be distracting. Focus on your message, not the technology.

2. Standard Clipart.
Death to screen beans! Powerpoint© is now so widely used the clipart included with it has become a “visual cliché.” It shows a lack of creativity and a tired adherence to a standard form. First, make certain that you need graphics to enhance your message. If you do, use your own scanned photographs or better-quality graphics from companies such as PhotoDisc (www.photodisc.com) or Hemera’s Photo Objects (www.hemera.com). Screen captures can add realism when presenting information about a Website or computer program. Two popular screen capture programs are Snagit (www.techsmith.com) for Windows and Snapz Pro (www.ambrosiasw.com) for Macintosh. Both are available as shareware.

3. Presentation Templates.
Another visual cliché. Templates force you to fit your original ideas into someone else’s pre-packaged mold. The templates often contain distracting backgrounds and poor color combinations. Pick up a good book on Web graphics and apply the same principles to your slides. Create your own distinctive look or use your company logo in a corner of the screen.

4. Text-Heavy Slides.
Projected slides are a good medium for depicting an idea graphically or providing an overview. They are a poor medium for detail and reading. Avoid paragraphs, quotations and even complete sentences. Limit your slides to five lines of text and use words and phrases to make your points. The audience will be able to digest and retain key points more easily. Don’t use your slides as speaker’s notes or to simply project an outline of your presentation.

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