Presentation tips for the clueless
August 2, 2005 8:30 PM   Subscribe

Help me give good slide?

I prepare customer proposals as part of my job, and I've read and studied this and am pretty good.
Increasingly I'm being asked to prepare follow up presentations, usually using powerpoint.
I'd like to do these well, but I find I'm not sure what content to include (so questions about how to develop the message etc. for this format) and the whole design and imagery thing is a battle for me.
Our marketing people have nice looking templates, but after that I tend to get stuck.
Ideally I would have some resources that had some theory, some practical and some examples of good presentations.
Anyone got any pointers?
posted by bystander to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Check out the last section "On Speaking" in my write up of a recent conference. I watched someone work the crowd and do an amazing job, then I thought about it afterwards for a few days, trying to break down everything the speaker did that was so successful in keeping the audience paying attention, learning, and enjoying their time there.
posted by mathowie at 9:07 PM on August 2, 2005

The best presenters I know don't use powerpoint much.

The first thing you want to decide is what information you want to get across. Is it your spoken word, your charisma, your influence, and the things that you're saying you want to give them? Is it numbers and figures? Is it information you want them to write down?

More than likely, it's a mixture. So now we come to Karl's Rule of Thumb for PowerPoint: Have something up on the screen only when you want to show them something that's hard to get across in spoken words that you want them to remember. Why's that? Sure, powerpoint is pretty. But what you want your audience to do is to focus... focus on what you're saying, focus on the information you're presenting, and focus on looking at you, not taking notes. Keep that in mind: You want them focused at each point.

When outlining, I follow a simple rule: Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them what you need to tell them, and tell them what you've told them. That means that just like in 10th grade english, you want to have very clear introductions, bodies, and conclusions.

When doing in-person presentations, I expand that to providing an outline on paper with plenty of space for taking notes at the beginning and also giving a spoken introduction, presenting information during the body verbally with occasional visuals, and then concluding and asking for questions at each stage. This kind of presentation requires a lot of preparation, but results in a very clear presentation with a defined goals and information points -- which is what most people (mis)use powerpoint for. :-P
Displaying your outline in PowerPoint serves to distract. You do NOT want to use PowerPoint to present your outline because it will lead you into the trap of speaking straight from PowerPoint. Your speaking outline should be in YOUR notes behind the podium.

The way I specifically use PowerPoint is to have a plain slide up 90% of the time. It will either be a black slide if I'm giving a presentation to a college class, and either a black background or my logo when presenting to a customer. When I want to display something visual, I advance to the next slide, which has the visual information on it. I then present the information, and when I'm done with the point I was using that visual for, I advance the slide to another blank one. This specific use of PowerPoint focuses the audience on the visual when you want them on the visual, but otherwise keeps the attention on you and your words.

I actually tend to haul a folding markerboard in with me more than I'll use powerpoint, but I work in a very custom industry where we end up having to diagram things out in meetings.
posted by SpecialK at 9:15 PM on August 2, 2005

I think that what you are looking for might be found in Tufte's books.

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

Envisioning Information

Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative

Solid stuff.
posted by magullo at 12:03 AM on August 3, 2005

As long as we're looking at Tufte, check out his The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint.
posted by josh at 4:14 AM on August 3, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for these so far.
Unfortunately, as I am typically pulling together a presentation for several speakers (and often I'm not one of them), I need to use the slides to corral the speakers to the topic.
Also, top marks for SpecialK's blank slide. I'm going to push that as a means for gaining focus (too often lost when the audience is reading a graph/table etc.)
I'm still listening if there are any other experts, or keen amateurs with ideas to share!
posted by bystander at 4:55 AM on August 3, 2005

Conference presentation judo includes recommendations on making slides.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 8:08 AM on August 3, 2005

I'd like to agree with SpecialK on this one. The worst thing a presenter can do is put every word (or near) he or she says on the screen. The audience will fall into the pattern of reading after three or five slides, and may miss points you make that aren't on them.

Remember - the index cards are for you...powerpoint is a visual aid for the audience.
posted by ArsncHeart at 7:37 PM on August 3, 2005

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