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Over the past few weeks we have mentioned the importance of visuals as we have explored different perspectives of preparing for a presentation. This week I want to focus solely on the visual element of your presentation.

ppt_imageHistorically, presentations were solely and completely oratory – there were no visuals. Oh I suppose you could argue that Grog the caveman may have used a cave wall, a fire-blackened stick as his pointer and the camp fire as his projector but what were his handouts? Sometimes I feel like I’ve been around meetings as long as poor Grog. Once upon a time, projector slides were used. It was a tedious process that required extreme advanced planning and a whole AV support department if the carousel got out of order or hung up.

Then “PowerPoint” came along…. It was a game-changer. PowerPoint leveled the field and gave anyone the ability to either use great visuals or bad visuals. Throwing images on a slide does not constitute a presentation. You have to think through what image supports which thought. Here are ten basic rules….

  1. Slides with only words should have no more than 7 bullets per slide with no more than 7 words per bullet.
  2. Text size on slide is proportional to size of the delivery screen. Don’t use a 12 point font size EVER. Choosing a font size to make “all the words fit” breaks rule #1. Test your presentation. Visit the room. See where your presentation will be. Is the room dark? Will there be a light source in the room?
  3. While you have lots of options with font types, colors, bolds, italics, shadows…these should be used for emphasizing a point. Wrongly placed, such creativity distracts from your message.
  4. Charts and graphs’ axis must be clearly labeled. There must be a legend. No exception.
  5. Clip art can help drive home a point visually – or it can be distracting and irrelevant. Every slide doesn’t need clip art. Use it wisely.
  6. Slide order matters. Slides should augment your message outline and guide to the conclusion. If, when you practice, you find the flow seems disjointed try rearranging a slide or two.
  7. Number your slides. It helps the audience track for both note-taking and asking questions.
  8. Give credit where credit is due. Follow copyright rules.
  9. Your slides should be similar – Title size, Paragraph size, Font type, Background color, Font color, Logo usage, Use your company’s presentation theme if you have one. Consistency will allow your audience to focus more on your message.
  10. Use consistent slide transitions. It will help create a flow/continuity to your presentation and overall message.

Remember, think through what you are going to use visually. If the visual will raise a 1,000 questions, it may be telling you not to use it.

Be intentional