How many dull and lifeless presentations are you subjected to in a regular workweek?
It doesn’t have to be like that.
I’ve gathered these tips from experience in well over 100 different kinds of presentations — from closed-walled client meetings to full-on conference talks.
I’m sharing them here, now, in the hope that they can be useful to you, too.
1. One slide = 20–30 seconds = 2,5 / minute
The faster you talk, the more slides you need. A 20-minute presentation will need about 50 slides, a 45-minute talk will be approximately 90–110 slides. On average.
Central points need a full minute or more, while others are best delivered in rapid succession. But, as a rule of thumb, you can cover 2–3 slides per minute.
2. Don’t read slides aloud
I already know how to, thank you. When you’re constantly reading from the screen, it’ll be awkward at first and ultimately, downright annoying.
Instead, try explaining the point you’re making in different terms. That enables some of the audience to read as others listen, and everyone can follow along.
3. Don’t make me read while you talk
Your message is drowned out, when both my eyes and ears are required to get your point. My brain automatically chooses one or the other, as the cognitive tension becomes too much. That means I can’t follow along completely, and then I have a bad experience with your presentation.
Give the point you’re making the space it deserves, by breaking up long passages of text into separate slides. That also makes it easier to change up your wording, so you won’t read aloud.
4. No bullets!
Here’s a piece of feedback you will never get:
“Great talk! I was completely blown away by your bullet points!”
Your message must be conveyed. With passion, conviction and perhaps a bit of drama. Bullets have neither of those qualities. There’s always a better format than bullet point.
Okay, some topics are best presented as a list. Like the meeting agenda, or program for the day. Or, checklists like “Step 1–2–3” and “In summary: 3 things to act on”.
Bullet lists break the rule of one point per slide, but if you must use them, at least show one bullet at a time (on each click), so I can follow along.
5. Don’t apologize
Never say “I’m sorry” to your audience. Regardless of whether the A/V is acting up, a slide is missing some detail, your are giving a talk for the first time, or (especially) because of personal circumstances (nervousness, delays, preparation, etc.)
Excusing yourself in your presenation might relieve a bad conscience, but how will your listener react?
Her experience is now tainted by the unexpected apology, as you are diverting her attention to something she wasn’t looking for—or, best case, something that doesn’t matter anyway. In other words, you can’t win. Worst case? You disappoint your audience. Best case? They shrug and wait for you to go on.
So don’t apologize the situation and divert attention. Just go on.
6. Bright colors don’t work for important detail
Take a designer classic: Light gray. Great for secondary text, graphic backgrounds and neat, pretty lines around things that look great on my Macbook.
But nine out of ten projectors in business are set up by hopeful tinkerers in a hopeless on-screen menu, and competes for attention with fluorescent lighting and white tabletops. You know, the real world.
Stick to a few highly saturated, not-too-bright colors, and avoid shades of one color.
7. Use contrast as your primary visual material
Strong points are expressed with simplicity, so your slides should be simple as well. You need as much time as possible to prepare your delivery, so the less makeshift graphics artist you must be, the better. If you’re looking to spend time on content rather than template, use these hacks:
How to create eye-catching contrast
Your base template (“master slide” in Keynote/Powerpoint) should have:
- White background (so most graphics can be dropped in without need for any additional enhancement)
- Black text, but not fully black – eg. hex code #212121
- Two primary colors for contrast and highlighting
- Your name/contact in the lower right corner, quite small and close to the edges, and perhaps the event or talk title in the opposite side
You should have master slides (templates) for:
- Large stand-alone image/graphic, with an optional caption
- New sections with a single word or short sentence in HUGE font
- A centered headline, placed in the middle, optionally with a subtitle (remember, single-point slides!)
- A (slightly) longer paragraph, with a little extra jazz in typography (works well for eg. quotations)
8. Don’t buy ready-made templates and themes
There are some incredibly beautiful themes available for purchase online, claiming to save you the hassle of fleshing out your own templates. You see them and think “they look good, so I will, too”. But you’re getting the short end of the stick, when you skip the calculations required to arrive at the result.
You see, ready-made templates only leaves room for “filling out” the template, instead of “figuring out” what goes into it in the first place.
Spend your time instead on finding a great typeface and a nice color palette, then you already have 80% of the visual identity in your slides.
9. Get an expensive remote
Actually, this one from Kensington isn’t even that expensive, but it’s good.
My personal favorite, though, is the Spotlight from Logitech. It does a full charge in just three minutes, and can be set to vibrate 5 minutes before your presentation ends. And other smart stuff.
Trust me, you don’t want to risk breaking the rule of no apologies, just because your clicker is raising hell. Get an expensive remote.
10. Remember Everyone wants you to do well
Regardless of where, and to who, you’re presenting, remember: They’re all there to be informed and/or entertained.
They want you to succeed, because that’ll yield a return on their time invested.
You got this.