By Charles Hopkins
Published 10/23/2007 | Computer
In the hands of a skillful communicator, PowerPoint can be a great
tool. Unfortunately, there are many who use PowerPoint poorly. A report
in the online Wall Street Journal claimed that millions of dollars are
being wasted each day due to bad presentations. Whether this is a
realistic figure or not, most people have had to suffer through poor
presentations at some stage.
The most common mistake in PowerPoint is using too many words.
Research suggests that having lots of words on the screen to match a
spoken presentation increases the cognitive load on the brain. The end
result is that the message actually becomes less clear. Using lots of
words can also tempt the presenter into using the slides as a
teleprompter. If this is the case, it would be better to write the
points on cards and not show them to the audience.
A related problem is using too many bullet points. Again, your key
messages can become lost if you have a vast variety of bullet points.
Some commentators suggest that you should have no more than six bullet
points and the number of words per point should be restricted to a
maximum of six. A good guide is to write your points as headlines.
There are others who suggest that a presentation can be better with
no bullet points at all. Because PowerPoint is essentially a visual
medium, many advocate using one key message per slide mixed with the
use of interesting and relevant images. In fact, slides which contain
only an image or a collection of images with no text at all can often
make a powerful statement. The beauty of PowerPoint slides is that they
dont cost anything, so you can use as many as you want.
A poor choice of background is another source of aggravation for
audiences. If you are going to use text, it needs to be seen. A busy
background or one that doesnt provide enough contrast between it and
the words can lead to text that is unreadable. Distracting backgrounds
can be used if the text is placed inside a text box with a plainer
background that allows it to be read. Another cause of unreadable text
is using a font size that is too small.
Some people seem to be natural presenters. However, the good news
is that the skills to construct a good presentation can be learnt. Even
a mediocre presenter can shine if they put the effort into designing a