How to Get the Most Out of PowerPoint
First Things First
A good presentation is like any well-written report or research paper. Whatever process works best, depends on the person. Some writers can go directly to the outline stage, while others need to brainstorm first. Some “brainstormers" can skip the outline and go directly to the writing.
In PowerPoint, though, the outline is the writing and is a step that cannot be skipped. Consider this: A presentation is merely an outline “gussied up." Some experienced PowerPoint users prefer to go directly to the outline stage and use PowerPoint’s handy outlining feature to construct their presentation “on the fly." So the method the user employs to get the presentation going is a matter of skill, experience and personal preference. Beginners should probably consider doing their outline on (gasp!) paper.
The “Rule of 6"
Once the outline is done, the presenter should consider the audience’s ability to absorb what is being presented. Lengthy (wordy) outlines presented on a slide are difficult to follow. There is a rule of thumb, then, that states the following:
- There should be no more than 6 bullet items to a slide.
- Each bullet item should consist of not more than 6 words.
Follow this rule and you’ll keep your audience engaged. Also, you -- the presenter -- will be able to focus better. The place for detail (or even your complete script) is in your slides notes, which can be either concise “reminders" to make sure you cover all your points, or a complete dialog.
Last but not least…
Booting up the PowerPoint application, deciding on slide layout and tweaking the presentation with special effects are the last steps in the process. Like writing a research paper or a report, doing a presentation requires research, brainstorming, and outlining. The planning process and resulting outline is really the “bones" of your project. The “meat" is added as the outline develops.
While we are basking in metaphors here, let’s consider PowerPoint as really more of an “X-ray" (or perhaps an “aerial photograph") of all the work that went into the presentation. In other words (and to use another tortured simile), marrying up a poorly planned presentation with PowerPoint is akin to putting lipstick on a pig.