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August 4th, 2009

Tips to Enhance Your PresentationFor many professionals, making an effective presentation is a real challenge, and the many tools that have been developed to make presentations easier—particularly PowerPoint and its Mac counterpart, Keynote—haven’t solved the underlying problems. “Desktop publishing” programs didn’t create great newsletter designers in the 1980s, FrontPage didn’t birth great web developers in the 1990s and no razzmatazz software will make you a slick presenter now.

Still, you don’t have to burden your audiences with 94 slides filled with bullets, sub-bullets and big chunks of illegible text. Just learn some important basics about presentations in general and PowerPoint/Keynote in particular. You will soon stand out from the innumerable “presentation pros” who don’t give the slightest nod to basic layout, typography, color schemes or design fundamentals.

The presentation tips, tricks, techniques and tools are divided into three sections: (1) Planning & Preparation, (2) Layout & Copy and (3) In the Spotlight.

(1) Planning & Preparation

  • Get the right hardware for showing off your software. For a department meeting you may decide to rent a LCD monitor, giving you 40 inches of crisp, clear imagery that everyone in your office can see.
  • For a larger meeting or small conference session, CRE recommends a  projector rental to clearly convey your message. You will need to consider lighting, line of sight and a few other aesthetic factors for maximum effectiveness.
  • For a large event you may need CRE’s comprehensive general session rentals package. Besides a projector and screen, you may need a sound system, cordless pointer and other technology (like the audience response system rentals for polling your audience) to ensure success. CRE’s experts can help you with equipment placement, lighting, seating arrangements and so forth.

(2) Layout & Copy

  • Your slides should all be based on a single “template.” You can find these online for free, design one yourself or modify one of the templates that came with your software.
  • Don’t overdo your slide template with unnecessary visual “bling.” Your template’s job is to frame your content, not distract from it. A solid, unobtrusive background with contrasting text and your company logo in the corner will probably do it. Use your template consistently, in this presentation and in the future.
  • Remember this math: 1 slide = 1 point. If you are making two key points at a certain point, then you need two slides. This may be a big change for you, but it is very important.
  • The title should be 36 points and on one line. Use 24 to 32 points for bullet lines. Keep it simple, too—don’t mix typefaces, colors, point sizes or bullet types.
  • Limit each slide to a maximum of six bullets, preferably fewer, and use a single line of copy per bullet. Eschew sub-bullets entirely, if possible.
  • Animation, whether Flash or something else, can be a nice touch, but “less is more” applies here in spades. Animation is cool, but often distracting, even irritating.
  • Mix up the graphics. Use a chart, then for the next graphic use an illustration, then a photo and so on. The audience needs a break from repetitive slides of bulleted text.
  • Keep your copywriting short, informative and free of “presentation clichés”. Avoid being verbose or repetitive. You want to seem knowledgeable and focused, not longwinded and vague.
  • Bullets are better as phrases than complete sentences (no matter what’s underlined in green by MS-Word’s grammar checker). Omit final periods and unnecessary words. Example: “We need to forecast the most likely wholesale and retail prices in the future” becomes “Forecast likely wholesale/retail prices.”

(3) In the Spotlight

  • You will do better if you know your audience. If you don’t, then you need to know something about them. The amount of technical detail you’d give to engineers would certainly exceed what you would share with marketing managers.
  • A first-rate cordless presenter, like the Logitech model that CRE rents, does triple duty as a cordless optical mouse, a laser pointer for accentuating key points and an LCD timer that vibrates at five and two minutes remaining.
  • Do not read the slide copy to the audience. This point cannot be stressed enough. Include the key word(s) of the topic as you speak to the slide’s point. Reading the slides shows that you are unprepared, lacking in confidence or not the expert the audience expected.
  • Finally, be natural, upbeat and even a bit quirky—in a nice way, of course. Be the presenter that people thank afterward and want to see again.

Presentations can be stressful, awkward and scary—and that’s just for the audience! Seriously, presenters face myriad challenges. CRE’s Account Executives have the expertise to navigate these choppy waters so you can make all the right moves. Fill out the CRE web form for a one-click quote, call us toll-free at (877) 266-7725 or send an e-mail for a response within 4 hours.

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