How to avoid creating a snooze-worthy PowerPoint presentation

It’s not PowerPoint’s fault your PowerPoint presentation sucks. Like Comic Sans, it just gets a bad rap because of how it is egregiously misused. Use the following tips to liven up your presentation and discourage your audience from looking for the exit.

1. Don’t write out every sentence

Many workshop presenters include bulleted lists in their PowerPoint that they then read verbatim. If your presentation contains every word that you plan to say, the audience has no incentive to listen to you. Instead, include just a few words or a phrase that describes your point and save the sentences for your notes. This will encourage the audience to listen and pay attention.

2. Think visually

If you include examples in your PowerPoint, there’s no rule that says you have to use bullet points to show off each one. Instead use an image or visual representation of your examples. For instance, if you are listing various websites, include screenshots of the websites in your PowerPoint. This will give everyone in the room something to look at while you are talking and will keep their focus on the subject at hand.

3. Don’t give away the presentation

Some presenters opt to distribute printouts of their PowerPoint before the actual presentation takes place. While their hearts are in the right place, what inevitably happens is the audience flips through the pages and knows exactly what the speaker is going to cover before they even open their mouth.

A similar dilemma happens when the speaker delineates each of the points they’ll cover in the very first slide. Keep your participants guessing by passing out handouts at the end of the presentation and letting them find out the points during the course of the presentation.

4. Be creative

Most PowerPoints are slide with bullet points after slide with boring bullet points. Keep your audience guessing with creative methods of presentation (and no, kooky transitions and unusual color choices don’t count).

Take a note from presenters like APM’s Joaquin Alvarado, who at the recent PRPD conference, showcased a PowerPoint in which the information for each slide was sketched out on a napkin. The unique display of information was clever and a big hit with the audience. Or follow the example of multimedia guru Richard Koci Hernandez, who instead of responding to an email interview with text answers, sent the writer a group of Polaroid photos instead.

Image: Innovative Interactivity

5. Road test it

If you spend more time fumbling over your presentation and trying to remember what you wrote, you’ll undoubtedly leave the audience reaching for their BlackBerrys. Before you present your PowerPoint in front of an audience, give it a test run beforehand. Often, you’ll find something that needs to be changed or sections where you’d like to add additional information.

6. Don’t blame PowerPoint

Just because every PowerPoint presentation you’ve seen before has bored the pants off you doesn’t mean yours has to be a snooze too. Think beyond the status quo and think of ways to engage and talk with — not talk to — your audience.

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