Let’s face it – the vast majority of PowerPoint presentations are often mind-numbing. But great presentations aren’t that hard to create – especially if you break the rules. This is a guest post by Al Bonner, Founder of Presentation Transformations, with some tips to help create killer presentations.
The web is filled with presentation gurus, experts, leading authorities and design specialists. And many provide a wealth of useful tools, research and examples that can help make your presentation more memorable and effective. Unfortunately, there are others tell you that if you just follow ‘The Rules’ you’ll be set. You know those rules: Never have more than “X” slides, “X” bullet points, “X” words per line, “X” rows for data on a table or “X” data points, blah, blah, blah.
The first step to creating a great presentation-start breaking the rules!
Start With Common Sense. Any rule that leaves no room for flexibility and common sense is usually a bad rule and seldom accomplishes its original intent. When it comes to your presentation, your slides should be short, simple and engaging. Period.
Context Matters. It’s always wise to investigate where a rule comes from and evaluate the context in which it was formulated before rigidly following it. For example, Guy Kawaski is a really smart guy, and his 10/20/30 Rule is an often cited one. That rule states that presentations should have only 10 slides, take no longer than 20 minutes, and use no fonts smaller than 30 points.
But let’s dig deeper. Kawasaki is a well-known tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist. That blog post, written in 2005, was specific to presentations designed for the venture capital community – not with regard to all presentations ever created. Elements of Kawasaki’s rules make perfect sense for a venture capital or boardroom presentation, but they don’t necessarily apply to other situations. Bottom line: Investigate before you blindly follow!
Let’s break down a couple of other rules that show up a lot.
The 1-7-7 Rule. You know the one. One concept per slide, 7 words per line and 7 maximum bullet points per slide. Seems logical, but when you actually see what the slide looks like, you’ll notice you’ve just created a text-filled nightmare. You have to make sure your goals make sense. For instance, what if seven words is too many? One concept per slide sounds simple enough, but not every concept can be described in one slide, and, according to this rule, unless you use seven words (and we won’t even talk about the bullet points), then you’re back to square one. Either way, your audience is screwed.
Here’s a quick tutorial with tips on bullet points:
The :30 Second Rule. Another rule that sounds good until you actually try it is “Limit the text on each slide so it can be read in 30 seconds or less.” Go ahead and count out loud to 30. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, etc. Are you impatient yet? I know that I would be! That’s a ton of time. If your slide takes up to 30 seconds to read or understand, it’s way too complicated and confusing to any audience. Your point should be made in a few seconds.
Garr Reynolds is a also a terrific resource when it comes to PowerPoint presentations and you can get some additional tips and resources in his What’s a Good PowerPoint Presentation.
Bottom line — If you really want to create great presentations, the rules you should be paying attention to are those that keep it simple. Make sure you have a compelling story, use examples, keep it simple (it’s so important, it bears repeating) and be sure and use common sense. Notice there are no numbers assigned to any of those rules. There are no absolutes in presentation design. Rules and guidelines should be secondary — the really important part is creating and delivering a presentation that leaves your audience informed, educated and entertained.
Al Bonner is the Founder of Presentation Transformations, which provides presentation design and training as well as advertising, marketing and communication consulting services to media companies on a national basis. Al’s primary focus is on online sales strategy, sales training, sales staff analysis, online seminars for internal needs and for customers/non-customers.