Mediocre presenters, who often fail in giving effective business presentations, often fill up their slides with excessive data, and use it as a crutch when they turn their back to the audience to read from the bullet points on the board.
Death by PowerPoint - Bullets Kill...
So be different. Audiences will love you if you create easy-to-follow and visually aesthetic slides, simply because almost no-one does that! Here are three practical pointers for keeping your slides clutter free:
- It's almost always a good idea to get rid of those darned bullet-points on your slides. Use your words to convey your message, not your slides. The audience shouldn't have to read long winded sentences from an electronic board, that's what your voice is for.
- Never fill up every centimeter of real-estate on your slides. White or black space usually make slides visually appealing while clutter and information-overload is a tell-tale sign that the public speaker has failed to put effort into designing his material.
- Stick to one theme per slide and use a visually appealing picture to compliment. A good speaker channels the audience's focus by zooming in one theme at a time, and great visual aids will do the same. Have a look at some of Steve Jobs' keynote presentations for a peek at how to use focused and effective slides.
Read more on the power of simplicity when it comes to slide creation for effective business presentations.
Fact: Giving effective business presentations might require a total rework of the way you use slides in PowerPoint or other presentation software... And the first thing you might need to change is your use of long lists of bullet points.
Many audiences have suffered the consequences of complex and incomprehensible visual aids, while many public speakers has made it their duty to use their slides (which everyone sees) as their speech notes (which no-one should see).
I wrote elsewhere on the power of simplicity when it comes to visual aids for public speakers. But let's delve deeper into the why and how of using a slide deck to your advantage instead of killing your audience with it...
One grand master of public speaking, the late Steve Jobs, came in the spotlight in recent years, among other things, for his keynote presentations during Apple conferences. Jobs is still known for the overall simplicity of his presentations, and nowhere was this more clear than in his use of visual aids.
Carmine Gallo, after studying some of Jobs' visual aids during one on his "Stevenote" presentations, makes the poignant observation that "the average PowerPoint slide contains forty words. Steve Jobs' first four slides have a grand total of seven words, and no bullet points."
That's almost radical. It's totally different from the way that most presenters use PowerPoint. Most of us have probably made this mistake (I know I have) of using slides like checklists with lists of bullet points that we read from the board and talk about.
Furthermore, we're usually under the impression that the more "stuff" we have on our slides, the more the audience will like it (and be impressed by our hard word of putting together such a complicated and cluttered deck of slides).
But the truth is that slides are not your message, but your medium. That means that long-winded descriptions, lists of bullet-points and a clutter of graphs and pictures are usually not fitting and always less than ideal.