'Expert' tips on PowerPoint Presentations

Hi to all my readers and to all the first readers of this post. First of all, I never copied any tips from outside sources to this post. Everything you'll read below, is an account from experiences. Yeah, I'm quite an expert at giving PowerPoint presentations and I guess you came here to check out some tips to give an effective PowerPoint Presentations for whatever it maybe. Another important thing, I typed this keeping in mind the fact that this is for the students participating in various competitions (CCE, Sahodaya etc.) or for seminars for their schools or any other.

I'm writing this post because I'm an expert in giving PowerPoint presentations. I may not be the best presenter in the world but I'm sure you, the reader, would benefit upon reading this article guiding you through my life's experiences. I've conducted several ones, for seminars, general awareness at my school and I've participated in several PowerPoint presentation competitions in the CBSE level at the Sahodaya competitions and my team won the district level and even made it to the State level and lose the prize due to very minimal errors. And I'm trying for this year's Sahodaya Fest too and I am trying this time to get the prize in the State level too. So, you can be sure that your reading an expert's post, not some nobody's post.

According to my theories and concepts, I believe there are only five things for an effective presentations, the fourth and fifth being optional. So, I'll guide you to making and giving the best PowerPoint Presentation experience for the viewers through these five theories of mine.

1. Make the design fresh, simple, elegant and readable

This one is one of the most vital points to remember while making and giving out a PowerPoint Presentation. Yeah, as the headline said, make the design fresh and simple. I bet you must be using Microsoft Office PowerPoint for creating the presentations. I'd recommend the 2010 version of PowerPoint as it is one of the most easiest and rich-featured PP you'd get yet. I'll explain the many advantages of PPT 2010 over the earlier versions in the last lines of this post. So, whatever be the methods of creating a PPT presentation, make it simple and fresh and most importanly, readable for the viewer. Through the main sub-points, I'll emphasize you on this point.
Use simple and fresh templates and add less text for a better effect.
  1. Use simple and fresh looking templates for your slides. Don't use templates with much graphical content and flashy text.
  2. To give a different look for the slide, the colour of the same template can be changed using the colors option in the Design Tab. This way, you can use the same fresh template with a different look without worrying the similar designs of each slide. Thus, different looks with the same slide, easy bonus!
  3. The same thing goes for font and other object colours. Use normal ones and always try to minimize the use of bright colours coz they are too bright. I'd recommend these colours mainly: grey, black, and dark variants of other primary colours. And it'd be best to stick with the colour of the template to give it a decent look if it feels nice to you.
  4. Don't try to give a dark theme to your slide as it won't always be preferred unless you're presenting from a light-filled room.
  5. Lesser the text = more effective the presentation. This is one of the basic principles you must remember while creating a presentation. Don't add much text to the slide as it'd result in an -- frankly -- ugly presentation. Use less text in the slide with spaces to give it an elegant look.
  6. It's better use bullets instead of typing the text to include the basic points of what you're going to say about. The most important points are only required in the slide. A slide must only include a maximum of, say 5 bullets or points in the normal font. Never, ever, add the whole version of the point to the slide which'd decrease the points you are going to get!
  7. And it comes to slide transitions. Transitions must be present in all the slides and these must be the most basic ones, not the funky ones (remember that you're giving out a formal presentation). And if you're using 2007/2010,  the direction of the effect can be changed with effect options.
  8. I'd never prefer adding custom animations to all the objects in the slide as it's not necessary and even without them, you will be able to make up a better presentations. But these are not preferred for competitions. So, you gotta add custom animations wherever you can (not to all the objects).
  9. Try to combine motion of custom animations with both 'On-Click' and 'Automatic'. Never give all as automatic or on-click. For headlines and bullets, use on-click. For rest of objects including graphics, use automatic.
  10. Try experimenting with WordArts but don't use much as it'll slow the presentation. Try the most classic WordArts or avoid WordArts if you must.
  11. SmartArt is a much better way of explaining the topic rather than the plain text. You can use graphics to represent your topic and thus, the viewer is more pleased and enlightened on yout topic. You must try to include at least one SmartArt in one slide as whole with a fresh background.
  12. Fonts -- Classic and classic only. Again, avoid fancy fonts as it's not pleasant to see. There are several classic fonts available with Word. Even for headlines, try the most basic fonts with perfect colour combination.
  13. Use image effects for a more visual effect on the reader as they are cool stuff you can experiment with.
SmartArts are a better way to reach the content to your audience -- in a more user-friendly way.

So, these are the fundamentals for a PowerPoint. If you're a designer, you must be aware of these principles as these are some of the keys to buid an effective presentation.

2. The Content - Moderate suits better

If you're a nerd or a geek and you get a topic and you have lots of points about the subject, well -- keep those in your minds itself. The content plays a crucial role in the development of a presentation. Even if the design's not eye-catchy, you can still win with the most perfect points of the topics. Having more and less content are both ugly. So, you must always try to find the moderate amount of content for your PowerPoint.
  1. Enter the content first, then try to add the effects and templates to it to make up time.
  2. More/Less/Moderate Content is always the perfect fit for your presentation.
  3. Only include the most important points in the Presentation. Give more preference to the most important ones than the least important ones.
  4. Divide the subject into parts. Then, add the points of each sub-topic to a group of tiles and always include a sub-title slide to point out that you are entering the next part of your presentation. This way, the crowd will feel less bored even if the topic is a boring one.
  5. Minimize the slide contents if you have more information and Maximize if you have less information (By creating more slides, enlarging the font size and adding minimum points to each slide) to fit the slide limit.
  6. Most competitions have a minimum slide number to be included. You can cross this number but never try to reach near to the multiple of this number of slides in your presentation. You must not bore the viewer.
  7. It's always better to include a starting slide(s) pointing out the topic and objectives of the presentation -- only if you have time.
  8. Always try to end the presentation with a bang! The bang can be a thought, quote or a general saying for a better climax. Also, emphasize this climax.
  9. Follow the rules from my first theory to add up to the contents. Some apply to this theory too. Make sure you read them all.
3. Presentation - A crucial yet cool role

Now this is my favourite part -- Presenting your PowerPoint before the audience. If you are willing to be a presenter, you must have good fluency in English and make sure you are tension free. Follow these points to give out one hell of a show out of your PowerPoint.
  1. Give the best introduction. A good introduction raises the anticipation of the viewers.
  2. Make a sketch of the whole presentation. It's important for the presenter as it'll help you to remember the points and you can glance less at the slides.
  3. Be cool -- The first and most vital point. Yeah, the world's not going to end and it's not your end neither. Present just like you would do with your friends and even if they don't mind you, don't stop. Just keep going and say the last word that comes out of your mind. It's the key to an effective presentation.
  4. Speech is not equal to Presentation. It's not a speech you know by-heart. It's a presentation for Christ's sake! And never try to give it out as a formal speech as most people does. It'll lose you crucial points. Be a presenter, not a speaker.
  5. Movement is necessary. Try moving your hand, legs and head without standing still. It's a factor for being cool while doing this stuff. Just move here and there and swing your hands and say the stuff like you are fighting to get it done. You are a presenter, and movement is always allowed. Point your finger at the screen sometime emphasizing the point(s) you are explaining.
  6. Expressions are sweet! You must have expressions and emotions while presenting to double the effect.
  7. Change your tone. Your way of speaking must be altered at important points and at the avoidable ones. Try raising the volume when you're trying to raise an issue, or a topic and try lowering the volume mixing it with expressions for the emotional ones and less important ones.
  8. Never, ever look at the presentation, if you must! Yup, you must be always cautious about the contents and the design of your presentation. A presenter must know all this. And you mus try to avoid looking at the presentation. Never explain each point by looking at it. A single glance is enough and the rest you can tell from your mind, what you're feeling about that particular point(s). You must try to minimize looking at the slides as many times looking at these can decrease your marks. You can of course, look and explain and point out for graphical objects, i.e, SmartArts, graphs etc.
  9. Timing is crucial! You must be having a time limit for the presentation. So, try to end the presentation perfectly with a perfect timing for bonus marks. Taking more time is boring, really.
  10. Big Bang Climax! You must always be prepared to make the climax the most memorable part of the presentation. May it be a thought, a quote or a general saying, add your points and point out to the current situations of that particular topic and finish it with a bang.
  11. Learn from other personalities. Take a look at product demos and presentations from various CEOs and personalities to learn some tips to give out a better presentation.
4. A perfect team

A perfect team should contain the same number of persons skilled at each of the above categories -- Design, Knowledge and Presentation. A team of a cool and efficient Presenter, an apt Designer and a Wiki who is well aware of current affairs is most preferred for a perfect team. The result would be a rich presentation. Also, constant practice is must before participating and each skilled person must try out the other skill in case of an emergency.

Thus, a perfect team is all that counts even if a single person knows all the skills mentioned here. A team is always a team, so make sure you have the best to beat the rest.

5. Bonus tips for bonus points!

See the Filmstrip I gave below the slide. Just group some pics and put it where you like to and don't forget to give a small entrance animation.
These are some of my special tips for making an effective presentation using the most out of your available resources. These points can come in handy when the competition gets more tough. Try experimenting with these for a better output.
    1. Use images as Filmstrips. If you are provided with more images, then it'd be messy and ugly to add these pictures to all the slides as it's not preferred and lovely. For this, you can try combining the images to a strip aligning it to the height or width of a slide with a cool animation for the best effect. Take a look at the picture below for a sample. I've tried this and it worked perfectly and it's the easiest way to emphasize your presentation and utilising most of your resources. Remember that each image must have the same size and you must group these without leaving any space between and align it perfectly to the presentation.
    2. Animate the SmartArt's parts for a better entrance. If you're using a SmartArt, try animating it one-by-one with automatic option selected for a better entrance of the SmartArt. The same can be applied to graphs too.
    3. A little bit of humour is also preferred. Yeah, add some LOL parts too if you must, to appeal the crowd and judges more if you prefer a little bit of informality.
    4. Follow Steve Jobs. Yup, he's the best presenter the world has seen so far. Take a look at his videos to catch some techniques used by Steve while demoing or presenting before the crowd.
    5. One last bonus point I'd give here is to try using the latest PowerPoint available for your presentation as it'd be much more rich-featured than its predecessor.
    Follow Steve. He'll guide you to the essence of presentations.

    So, that winds up the PowerPoint guide I created. There are infact, a lot of more cool tips you can check out from the net to add up the points. I hope you found it useful. And I assure you that if you follow these rules, you can be an expert yourself in creating and presenting a PowerPoint Presentation. And about PowerPoint 2010, it has lots of features including new transitions, WordArts, SmartArts, Image Options to give a fine touch to your presentation.

    If you have more doubts, comment on this post and I will clarify all your questions regarding this. Please do rate and share this post if you found it helpful. And finally, happy Presentation making! Adios!