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by Paige Miller

You have probably seen at least a few PowerPoint presentations that are confusing, have too much information, or are just plain boring. If you’re lucky, you have also seen some that are engaging, memorable and thought-provoking. What makes the difference? While there are a lot of factors that come into play, the speaker’s approach to giving a PowerPoint presentation can make a big difference.

1. Prepare.

If you have a room full of people taking time out of their day to hear you present, you owe it to them to put some time and effort into your presentation. That means don’t make your slides the night before! It can take a surprising amount of time to put a good presentation together. Consider giving yourself at least two weeks to create your presentation and to practice. Make sure you know exactly who your audience is so you can tailor your presentation to them. On the day you are speaking, get to the venue well in advance to make sure internet and any audio/visual needs work.

2. Follow the rule of three.

Before you start putting your slides together, create a story outline for your presentation. Because your audience is not going to remember everything, follow the “rule of three” and pick out three things that you want your audience to remember. This commonly used technique is based off of the simple premise that people tend to remember only three main points from presentations and speeches. Also, consider using anecdotes to illustrate your points through stories as a way to “show, not tell.”

3. Use more visuals and less words.

The easiest – and least effective – way to make a PowerPoint presentation is to put all of your notes in bullet form and read them out loud in front of your audience. This will likely bore your audience and leave them thinking that you could have just emailed them your PowerPoint instead of presenting to them. Instead, consider using large photos and visuals with simple headlines or facts. Try to stick to the “one photo per slide” rule. This will visually engage your audience as they hear you speak. Many presenters like to print their slides out and give them to their audience for reference. Instead, consider printing out a handout of your notes with everything that you plan on covering and give it to the audience after you present. That way, you won’t feel pressured to pack your PowerPoint with text. Let your audience know that you will give them this handout so they aren’t preoccupied taking notes during your presentation. Also, be sure to check that you have permission to use all of the photos in your slides – randomly pasting images from goggle can get you in trouble, especially if your presentation ends up online and the photographer sees that you have used their photo without permission (this can – and does – happen!).

4. Practice.

While you may want to hold note cards or read from the notes section in presenter mode while you speak, try to avoid notes. That way, you will look prepared and can dedicate your focus to your audience. Once you have practiced and think you have a good handle on the presentation, present it to a friend or colleague who isn’t too familiar with your topic and get their feedback. There is also the worst case scenario, where you may have extreme technical difficulties, preventing you from being able to present the PowerPoint itself. If you have practiced enough, you should still be able to give your presentation verbally. Additional Resources7 Ways You Can Write a State of the Union-Worthy Speech10 tips on how to make slides that communicate your idea, from TED’s in-house expertHow to Make a Presentation like Al Gore

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