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How to ensure your power point designs support, not kill your presentation

It's a classic scenario, all too often repeated: a keynote speaker steps up to the podium, and begins his address. Within moments, his fingers squeeze the clicker, and a barrage of bar graphs, pie charts and bullet points fill the screens. Fifteen minutes into his presentation, he feels a palpable shift in the energy of the room. It's only mid-morning, yet he sees delegates' eyes glazing over, and chins beginning to droop. Already, he's lost them. What went wrong?

In this article, I examine some of the top Dos and Donts when putting together your presentation.

1) Decks are Support Material, not Additional Material

Storytelling resides at the heart of any impactful presentation. You act as storyteller when giving a presentation, regardless of the content.

You even frame our feelings about the information you've provided. Just as it is in storybooks, pictures support the narrative, without dominating. Powerful presentations require the same approach.

Whether you're using PowerPoint, Prezi, Sway or Keynote, the winning formula contains visuals that support your spoken content. Well-produced visuals add impact, guide the story along, and deliver that story in a concise and captivating way.

2) Don't overload your audience!
There's often a subconscious driving notion that the more we 'tell' the audience, the more impact our presentation will have.

We vainly cling to the false equation that more data equals greater presentation punch. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Filling the screen with graphs, charts, bullet does not aid your key content. Why? Because the audience has to digest everything you are delivering, simultaneously. The eye can read only so fast. The brain can focus on only one idea at a time. And, crucially, the audience must harmonize information coming in through two senses at once (oral and visual).

For every slide in your deck, be disciplined in asking these three questions:

What do I want to give the audience?

On what do I want the audience to focus?

What is the take-away message?

3) A picture is still worth a thousand words
Wherever possible, avoid photos that have only cursory or minimal connection to your message. Also, be sparing in your image choices -- having too many images crowds the eye and diminishes the impact. One powerful image outperforms ten mediocre ones.

4) Colour & Font Selection matters
When designing your presentation, pay particular attention to the colours you choose. While there are variations between one culture and another, we all have associations with colour that date right back to childhood. Amp up your visual storytelling by matching your colour choices to your messages.

'Fancy' fonts slow down the uptake of information, since the audience has to first make sense of the font, then figure out what information you're conveying. Limit yourself to two fonts, maximum. If you must use more ornate fonts, limit them to titles or headings.

6) Ditch the laser pointer
It may seem counterintuitive, but laser pointers distract and confuse more than they help. In addition to the effort required to make sense of the slide itself, you now ask the audience to find and follow a tiny red dot, dancing through the middle of the data. Best to keep the slides concise, so that your spoken words alone can guide the attendees through the visual story.

7) Spoken word, physical gesture, and visual storytelling work together
The rising and falling of vocal pitch, pacing and use of pauses, increasing and decreasing vocal intensity -- all of these indicate to the audience what information most needs to be absorbed. Hand gestures do much of the same.

Strive to combine the oral, gestural, and visual aspects of your presentation into a seamless whole.

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