Monday, April 15, 2013

Presentation Skills: What Should You Include in Your Slides?

by Gilda Bonanno LLC www.gildabonanno.com

If you’ve decided to use slides in your presentation because you believe they will help your presentation, it’s crucial to think about what to include in your slides.

Resist the temptation to write your script out in the slides. Not only is that boring for the audience to see slides full of complete sentences, but they can read faster to themselves than you can read out loud so they will finish reading the slide before you do. 

Instead, use fewer words and provide the voiceover that gives meaning to those words. Even better, use graphs, charts, spreadsheets, photos or images that will visually explain your points.

Graphs, Charts and Spreadsheets
Use graphs, charts and spreadsheets if the information they contain will help the audience understand your message. 

Avoid putting up a chart or graph and saying, “I know you can’t read this.” (When I hear this, I am tempted to shout, “then why are you showing it to us?!”) Make sure it’s legible and that the colors are easy to distinguish.

And rather than just showing the whole chart or spreadsheet, highlight and zoom in on one section of it.  So, first show the overview and then on the next slide, show a bigger version of an excerpt, for example, just the 2010 numbers or just the line that shows customer growth over the past three years. Having just one section on the screen makes it easier for the audience to see, read and understand what you are focusing on.

Also use your words to highlight the important points. Orient them to what they’re looking at and then focus in on what’s important. For example, say, “What you’re looking at is a graph showing 2010 sales.  On the x-axis, you’ll see the months.  On the y-axis, you’ll see the sales, in millions of dollars.  I’d like to draw your attention to the last bar, December, where you will see that sales are double any of the previous months.”

 
Use Photos or Images
You can also use high-quality photos or images in your slides to communicate a point. 

Make sure they are clear, easy to understand and relevant.  Use high-quality stock photos or take some photos of your own.

For example, if you are introducing your department and office location to clients who have never seen it, use your camera phone to take some photos of your office and co-workers and include them on the slides.  If you’re presenting outside the country, include a map of your location so the audience can see where you are in relation to a city or landmark they are familiar with.  Photos and images used in these ways can help you bridge the gap between you and your audience.

Use As Many Slides As You Need
I know that some companies have rules about how many slides people should have in their presentations.  And I realize these rules are in place because the CEO doesn’t want everyone presenting to him or her with 300 slides that are going to take three hours to deliver.

However, I think these slide limits are arbitrary.  I could give a one-hour presentation without slides (in fact, I would prefer it).  I could also give a one-hour presentation using 20 slides, and I could give a one-hour presentation using 150 slides.

Content and time limit should be more important than the number of slides.  Use as many slides as you need. 

It shouldn’t matter how many slides you have, provided that the slides enhance your presentation and help you clearly communicate your message within the time limit.

 
For more on this topic, see my blog posts:
3 Ways to Use Images in Your Presentation, Inspired by Daniel Coyle, Marjory Abrams & Garr Reynolds - http://gildabonanno.blogspot.com/2012/12/3-ways-to-use-images-in-your.html

Don’t Present to the Screen and 5 other FAQs on presenting With Slides http://gildabonanno.blogspot.com/2010/08/dont-present-to-screen-and-5-other-faqs.html
Do You Really Need PowerPoint Slides? http://gildabonanno.blogspot.com/2013/04/presentation-skills-do-you-really-need.html

Gilda Bonanno's blog www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com
 

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