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Preventing PowerPoint Presentation Pitfalls

Detailing your plan to the team? Making a pitch to potential partners or investors? Then you better get their attention with engaging PowerPoint presentations – and keep it! Communication is key, and when you are using PowerPoint you are doing so on two levels: verbal and visual. Both aspects need to be done well, as they need to mesh well with each other in order to convey information effectively and maintain audience interest. This applies whether you are making sure that your instructions are understood and implemented well, or convincing listeners of your points. Thankfully, this isn’t a complicated process and the following tips will really help in improving the slide-making and delivery processes while avoiding common errors: 

Know Your Audience

What are your audience’s priorities? Not all of them will be the same, so it helps to target your presentation to the specific people who are listening. If it’s for a numbers-oriented crowds then better get your pie and flow charts ready. On the other hand, you don’t want to cram industry-specific jargon to those who aren’t experts on the subject. Whereas if you’re talking to specialists in the same field as yourself, then feel free to talk shop and crack in-jokes. 

Keep the Slides Clean

Your slides should be short and simple. Canva creator Guy Kawasaki has his 10/20/30 rule for PowerPoint. In short, ideal presentations should have: 
  • 10 slides
  • Go on for no longer than 20minutes 
  • And use fonts no smaller than 30 points
This prevents visual and mental clutter, keeps the entire thing concise and makes the overall presentation flow smoothly. When it’s done, you’ve delivered the succinct points and raised interest, without dragging on for too long to the point where they’ve just waiting to leave. Like showbiz, it’s better to leave them wanting for more!   

Don’t Just Read the Text

This. Please do not just recite what’s on the slide. The visual component and your verbal delivery should compliment each other. Graphics and text should support what you’re saying and vice versa. If you’re just enumerating what’s on the screen, you might as well leave the room of just pass some brochures around. People can read faster than you can actually say it out loud. So they’ll have skimmed through the text while you’re trying to catch your breath between bullet points.  So be sure your dialogue explains, expounds and reinforces what’s being displayed. Show and tell. This way, you’re also showing everyone that you actually understand the subject matter instead of relying on a script (whether it’s on hand or the slide itself).  Tailor your dialogue with each slide and how they transition to each other so you can tell a story through the overall presentation. If you do this right, you can keep the text in the slides to a minimum, greatly reducing clutter and making the visuals more clean and appealing – while maximizing the effectiveness of your verbal delivery.  

Work On Your Public Speaking Skills

Ahh… ummm… errr… public speaking can be hard for some. It’s not easy being in the center of attention. You might stammer, fidget, try playing with a paperclip in your pocket, lose track of your train of thought or forget what you’re trying to say. Effective verbal delivery also relies upon cadence and tone. So you’ll have to work on infusing your speech with emotion and life. Otherwise, a monotone delivery will put audiences to sleep.  So practice and get used to the gist of what you’re trying to say. You don’t have to memorize every little line of the script, this isn’t a recital. And you shouldn’t just read off the text. By understanding the essence of what you are trying to say, you can better improvise and go off-the-cuff if need be.  Try speaking in front of the bathroom mirror, then scale up to a small audience of close friends. If you want to really practice the art of public speaking, try joining the local Toastmasters. Who knows, you might graduate from corporate presentations to standup comedy bars.  

Leverage Your VA’s Design Skills

Delegation, and working smarter not harder, applies in PowerPoint as well. Want really visually slick slides? Getting lost in all the captions and boxes you’re inserting? Spare yourself the long hours of grief by letting your Virtual Assistant handle it. Especially if she or he has visual or graphic design knowhow. Leave it to the pros!  This way you’ll have slides with ideal composition, color schemes that don’t clash with each other, optimally sized fonts, slick graphics, smooth slide transitions and maybe even a few cool .gifs. 

Effective Presentations Are Lifesavers

An ineffective presentation has consequences beyond just a few yawns and glazed eyes. If you are misunderstood, your team might make costly mistakes that not only require correction, but also necessitate further instruction on what went wrong and how to do it correctly the next time around. So, you’ll have to make more slides, yay.  In other fields, PowerPoint Gone Wrong has even worse consequences. According to the New York Times, US military staff spend so much time making tedious presentations and delivering them that it actually slows down their field operations and decision making processes. And visually dense and unreadable slides were part of why NASA fudged its assessment of the Space Shuttle Columbia leading to its tragic mission – talk about death by PowerPoint.   Of course, the daily going ons in a normal startup, the usual meetings and conferences, won’t have the same risks as military operations or spacecraft launch and reentry – thank goodness. Still, this underscores the impact a neat and effective presentation can have. Well-made slides and engaging delivery will do wonders in orienting your workforce, convincing prospective audiences, and ensuring you have your audience’s rapt attention.      -John Li

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