Let's face it; presenting
is all about-facing it-your audience, that is. These days, presenting your case
often means creating a presentation using PowerPoint or other similar presentation
To create a winning presentation,
you need to know how to tailor it for your audience - and then how to present
The first step is to decide
on your content. All the bells and whistles in a presentation program can make
you forget that you still have to say something that will influence your audience.
Using fancy graphics with whiz-bang animation doesn't relieve you of the responsibility
to carefully plan and organize the text. Believe me, your audience will see
right through you if you don't.
Basically, all presentations
should follow this structure:
- Attention-getting opener
- Brief overview of the
- Describe what your audience
needs, that is, the problem
- Explain how your solution
meets that need
- Tell how your audience
can implement your solution - that is, action steps
- Brief summary and conclusion
Of course, in order to describe
what your audience needs, you need research your audience. A cardinal rule of
presenting is to find out as much as you can about your audience-before you
create your presentation. In a worst-case scenario when no information is available
in advance, chat with your audience as they enter the room to learn as much
as you can- and adjust your presentation on the fly. In order to explain how
you can meet their needs, you have to know your product, service, or solution
thoroughly. Then, leave most of your knowledge out and include only the most
important points. People can only comprehend and remember a few points in one
By organizing a presentation
into this six-step structure, you can ensure a logical flow that your audience
can easily follow. Also, the material in each step must be simple and organized.
The best way to put together a presentation in PowerPoint is to create the text
using the outline pane or view. In other words, start creating your presentation
without thinking about the visuals or effects. By concentrating on your text
in outline form, you can easily write down your ideas, see the flow of the entire
presentation at once, and move ideas from one place to another so they flow
more logically. Don't forget to add examples and anecdotes as you go. Once you
have completed this process, you not only have a meaningful presentation, but
PowerPoint has created your entire presentation for you, slide by slide.
You're not finished yet!
Now you need to add visual elements that pack a punch. Research has shown that
high-quality visual effects add to the effectiveness and influence of the presentation.
Visual impact contains three elements and they are all important: color, graphic
images, and layout.
Consider color first because
your color choice affects the background or template that you use for the entire
presentation. When choosing a set of colors for your presentation, think about
the overall impression you are trying to make. Do you want to evoke boldness,
comfort, authority, or some other quality? Then take the following into account:
- Whichever color your
choose, make sure that all your text contrasts enough with your background
to be easily legible.
- Traditionally, dark
backgrounds are used for on-screen presentations (compared to overhead transparencies)
because light colors are too bright and make your audience uncomfortable.
However, medium backgrounds can also work when you want a softer impact. Just
make sure that the text is clearly visible.
- Avoid certain color
combinations which may be difficult to look at or which some people cannot
distinguish: red/green, brown/green, blue/black, and blue/purple.
- Use red with care because
it has certain undesirable connotations, such as financial loss. However,
it can be used sparingly for contrast.
- Blue is the most common
color for business presentations. To avoid the "bland blues, use a background
with some variations." Green is believed to stimulate interaction and is often
used by trainers and educators to generate a response.
Save one or two colors for
contrast and emphasis. If you overuse them, they lose their effectiveness.
The most professional looking
backgrounds are photographs or textures rather than solid colors. You can manipulate
photographs in photo editing software to soften and colorize them to your chosen
Next choose your graphic
art. Go for emotional impact if you can. Photographs are especially effective.
Avoid cartoons. The standard guideline is that 50% of your slides should have
some graphic element. Don't overdo the graphics. If you add animation, keep
it low key and appropriate.
Here's a professional tip:
AutoShapes are especially effective to help your audience visualize your presentation's
structure. For example, if your presentation has three sections, create a shape
with the section's name (such as "Action Steps") and use it on each slide in
the section. Vary the color for each section. Place the shape at the top or
bottom of each slide.
Sloppy layout makes a presentation
look unprofessional but few users know how to lay out the elements of a slide.
Graphic artists create a grid on a slide to help check for balance. In PowerPoint,
you can do the same thing with guides. Choose View > Guides to see the guides.
To add guides, press Ctrl and drag a guide to a new location. PowerPoint has
a number of other features to help you lay out a slide with precision, such
as snapping to the grid and to objects, aligning and distributing objects, creating
a master slide, and so on. Learn how to use these features for professional