1. Bullets and phrases: When I conduct public speaking training, I always remind my audience to keep their PowerPoint slides easy to read. Pretend you’re on the interstate where someone could read the information driving 55 miles per hour. Bullets work best as they are easier to read than sentences. Also, you are less likely to read the slides this way. The biggest rule with PowerPoint slides is to keep them big, bold, and simple. Your slides should resemble a billboard. No more than 6 bullets per slide and 6 to 8 words per line. Stick to three colors per PowerPoint slide, otherwise your audience will start focusing more on color and less on your content.
2. Font choices: Often, people come up to me privately in my public speaking training seminars and confide that many of their colleagues use “print that is too small for anyone to read.” They secretly urge me to tell everyone attending that the print must be large enough to read the PowerPoint slide. In addition, I’m often told by the person who hires me that many of their employees put too much information on their slides. With public speaking and visual aids, less is more.
Pick simple fonts, but make certain they’re large enough to read for people in the back rows. The print size should be at least a 28 font for titles and at least 22 point for other text. Simple fonts with clean lines are much easier to read. For instance, Times New Roman, Gothic and Verdana are good choices. Within those font families you have the ability to enhance a page using italics and bold, just go easy on the underlines. And never put letters in all capitals. Instead, use upper and lower case lettering. It is much easier to read, and doesn’t look like you’re shouting.
3.Color and contrast: Take into consideration the size of the room in which you’ll be speaking. Will everyone in that last row be able to read the information on your PowerPoint slides? In order to assist them in reading what’s on screen, choose soft “easy-on-the-eyes” background colors such as light blue or turquoise blue. For lettering, choose a contrasting color differing from your background such as white, black or navy. For example, use light lettering on a dark background, or dark lettering against a light background. Never use all sentences in black print against a plain white background. It is boring and no one will read it.
Public speaking and the cardinal rule: you never want to read what’s on the screen. After all, you are the presenter. Your audience assumes you’re the expert. Also, when you read what’s on your slides, mostly likely your back is to the audience. They won’t focus on you. They’ll just lose focus and start thinking about other things. Therefore, use bullets and phrases as opposed to sentences on your slides and in handouts. Think of what’s on your slides only as “fast food for the eyes.”
In my public speaking training, I frequentlly see highly educated, knowledgeable people trying to cram too much information on a single slide. This is especially true when presenting technical material.Technical people have a propensity to put too many words, charts, colors and graphs on a single slide. Know your material, yet keep it simple. Practice. Rehearse with your PowerPoint slides. Get honest feedback from your friends, family members and colleagues. You can do it. Good luck!
Copyright 2006 Colleen Kettenhofen