Ten Characteristics of a Great Slideshow

In another capacity, I present a 35-40 minute speech, complete with Powerpoint, every week. I’ve been doing that for about 2.5 years now, and I think I’ve learned a lot. I’ve even used it in a technology-related capacity, speaking at Ignite Raleigh last year (and hoping to again). But that’s beside the point of this post. I want to talk about what I’ve learned from actual presentations: not you, but the Powerpoint/Keynote/280 Slides file that goes along with your speech.

The Golden Rule of a Great Presentation: Your slideshow should complement, not replace, what you have to say.

Without further ado, the top 10 things that put your presentation over the top:

  1. Great Background: This seems obvious. The background is the only constant piece of information throughout your entire slideshow. Even if you do a horrific job of presenting information, people will still remember your background if done well. The problem is this: I’ve seen so many terrible presentation designs (and created some as well), it’s not even funny. Bottom line: if you’re using a default template, you’re doing it wrong. You don’t even need to hire someone to design your important slide theme, either. Here’s how to do it: You first need to customize the background. Open up GIMP, Photoshop, Aviary, or MS Paint if that’s what it takes, and create a background image. Think about your topic, whether it’s religion and social media, or pitching a new idea to diversify your market. What images come to mind? What symbols? Now incorporate those into the background. Or hire someone. :)  Warning: Most background sites are just as bad as the defaults.
  2. Great Typography: Typography, or the “font” you use, is just as important as background. The font should be legible, clear, and germane to your audience. Do not use Comic Sans unless you work with toys or children. Do not use Papyrus. Ever. Try to stick with the classics: Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, Verdana. Or variations of those classics (Gothic fonts, slab fonts, etc.) They are all readable, memorable, but not so much “wow” factor that it takes away from what you’re trying to say. (Again, the Golden Rule)
  3. Great Title: Your title should appear first. Some people skip this, and go right into the content. Wrong. You want to setup your presentation before actually presenting. Your title should be catchy, quick, perhaps with a short subtitle, memorable, and hint at your main point(s). People should glance at your title, be intrigued or laugh a little, and refocus right back on you. In. Out. Done.
  4. Your Title Should Be On Every Slide: This one is easy to disagree with. In fact, sometimes I break this one, my own rule. But it’s a struggle every time I do. The reason for this is that it reminds people to be looking for the point. If you’ve accomplished rule #3, you’re good here.
  5. The Content Should Be As Concise As Possible. Otherwise, people are so focused on writing down notes, or reading the text on the screen, that they lose focus on you, the presenter. Again, Golden Rule. If people look at the projector screen more than they look you in the eye, the computer is making your presentation. You better hope it does a good job. As a leader, I prefer to take things into my own hands.
  6. Ignore the “10″ of the 10/20/30 Rule, except for agreements. Now, in the world of presentations, Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule is golden. But, as he clarifies, this guideline is only for presentations making a pitch of some kind, or trying to reach an agreement. The 10/20/30 rule says that there should only be 10 slides. Horse garbage. Your slideshow should be as long as it needs to be…but not a slide longer. This is another one of those rules that is easy on paper, hard in practice. But trust me, when it comes to presentations, size matters.
  7. Keep the “30″ part of the 10/20/30 Rule. Every font should be at least 30 point in size. If you accomplish Rule #5, this should not be a problem. The “20″ part of the 10/20/30 Rule, by the way, is that every presentation should be 20 minutes long. That deals with the actual content, not the slideshow, but as a bonus for this article: 20 minutes is good for most types of presentations.
  8. Keep the Mystery. Another freebie for actually presenting the material is that you should create tension within the audio. Either present an unanswered question that you work towards answering during your presentation, or keep a key point of information hidden until just the right time. The reason I reveal that piece of presentation art is because that directly affects how you structure and provide content for your slides. You want your main point to provide either a “wow” factor or a revelation to the listener. Your slideshow can, and indeed should, be structured for maximum impact of your audio’s mystery.
  9. End It Quick. Once you get to the main point in both your presentation and in the slideshow, wrap it up quickly. You should only have a couple (at most 3-4) slides after your main point. This is for two reasons. First, it drives your point as the most important thing you have to say. If you have a lot to say after your main point, perhaps your main point isn’t your main point. Your slideshow should reflect that. Second, your ending lingers in the listeners mind more than anything else. What you leave your listeners with is what they will question you about, talk to one another about, etc. You want their minds dwelling on your main point.
  10. Include Relevant Contact Information. Have contact information on your final (and perhaps first) slide as well. I made this mistake at Ignite Raleigh, and regretted it. I could have made some great contacts after the presentation, but didn’t include my contact information. Mistake. It cost me Twitter followers. It could cost you a big sale.

There they are. Hope you enjoyed ‘em. Any slideshow tips for us? Share below!

One Comment

  1. bridgette tindo says:


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