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Learn to Avoid Common Mistakes When Delivering a PowerPoint Presentation

written by: John Garger•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 5/20/2011

A PowerPoint presentation is a popular tool used by presenters in business and educational settings. Learn how to avoid common mistakes presenters make when using PowerPoint.

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    Microsoft PowerPoint Presentations

    Microsoft PowerPoint is such a popular tool for delivering presentations that many people refer to any electronic slide presentation as a “PowerPoint." Equally popular in business, education, government, and military, PowerPoint is the standard for interacting with an audience during a presentation.

    Unfortunately, many people assume that they must show up to a meeting with a PowerPoint presentation. Often, they think that people want to sit there and read page after page of electronic slides. In addition, many presenters assume that they, as presenters, are incidental to the presentation and that the PowerPoints substitute for a competent presenter. Read on to learn how to avoid common mistakes presenters make when using PowerPoint, and how to get creative with PowerPoint.

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    1) You Are the Presentation, Not the PowerPoint Slides

    This one may seem obvious, but many people use PowerPoint slides to hide the fact that they are poor presenters. The people watching your presentation are there to listen to you, not read things posted on a wall or screen. No matter how great your PowerPoint slides, you are the one who must deliver the message to the audience. If you constantly point to and refer to your slides, it is a sign that you are expecting PowerPoint to shoulder the task of presenting the message to the audience. Seek a balance between you and your slides.

    To learn more about the art of balancing PowerPoint in a professional context with a hint of humor, read Using Humor with PowerPoint.

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    2) Don’t Present Too Much Information on Your PowerPoint Slides

    This is a very common mistake when using PowerPoint. Not everyone in the audience is sitting in the front row and not everyone has the eyesight of a hawk. Imagine if every traffic sign not only told you what you need to do such as “stop," “yield," and “merge left," but told you in sentence form the law you need to obey. Just as drivers can’t stop to read every such traffic sign, members of an audience can not listen to you and read PowerPoint slides that contain long paragraphs. Your audience will have to choose between listening to you and reading. Like a traffic sign, give the big picture to the audience and leave the details to you.

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    3) Don’t Present Too Little Information on Your PowerPoint Slides

    At the opposite end of the spectrum, some presenters have too little information on their PowerPoint slides. As mentioned above, some presenters assume they must use PowerPoint with every presentation. If you don’t have enough information to include in a PowerPoint presentation, consider skipping the use of PowerPoint altogether. On another note, don’t invent information to use in a PowerPoint presentation just so you can use one (see #1 above). Use PowerPoint to help get your message across to your audience; don’t use it because you think you have to.

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    4) Select a Balance between the Template and the Content in a PowerPoint Presentation

    The templates that ship with PowerPoint are useful for getting you up and running with the creation of your presentation. Too often, however, presenters choose a background that isn’t conducive to delivering the content of the slides. This has more to do with the colors chosen than with the picture in the background. For slides that contain mostly text, choose a light background with black or very dark words. Never choose a very dark background with white or light colored letters. It may look high tech but it is generally unprofessional, not to mention difficult to read at a distance. For videos and images, choose a lighter background and make sure the video and images are sufficient for people in the back of the room to see clearly. Generally, using videos in PowerPoint presentations is a bad idea. Any video that could fit into a PowerPoint presentation would be compressed too much to make for easy viewing. Consider separating the video from the PowerPoint file and showing it on a television or projection screen.

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    5) Don’t Forget to Give Printouts of Your PowerPoint Presentation to Your Audience Members

    Those seeking to live a green life may not like this one but handing out printouts of your presentation serves several purposes. First, it allows anyone who cannot follow along with the pace of your presentation the opportunity to flip back at his/her leisure. Second, it allows audience members to take notes next to each slide. This is an excellent way to encourage your audience to participate, temporarily taking some of the focus off of you. Third, it gives something tangible that the audience can walk away with which may elicit some feedback after the presentation is over. Finally, printouts of your PowerPoint slides give you an opportunity to include your contact information and any other information you feel is relevant. Better yet, your contact information will be right there next to your printed presentation slides so people associate the information you presented to them with you. This is especially useful when making new contacts or trying to stand out among a crowd in business or educational settings.

    For the best in good practice using PowerPoint read - Great PowerPoint Presentation Samples.

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    Conclusion

    There are many common mistakes even veteran users of PowerPoint make when delivering a presentation. The mistakes discussed above are some of the most common. Some deal with PowerPoint itself while some deal with how to better use PowerPoints when delivering a presentation. Follow these rules and you are on your way to standing out in a crowd of PowerPoint presenters.

    For more on this and other Bright Hub PowerPoint reference material, read this Collection of PowerPoint Tips, User Guides, and Tutorials.