10 Questions and Answers About Presentations

1. How many slides should you show during a presentation to be effective?

Use the 50% Rule. Divide the number of minutes by half. This will give you a number of slides that will be comfortable to your audience. 

For instance, if you have 60 minutes x .5 = 30. 30 slides is the maximum number of slides you should try and present. Now, those shouldn’t be slides filled with 8 bullet points. They should be simple slides. The usual mistake is to try and cram as much into a presentation as possible. Less is more. 


2. How many lines per slide and how many words per line?

Four lines max is a good rule of thumb. Use phrases and not complete sentences. It can be overwhelming to an audience to see a bunch of sentences on one slide. We have learned that a slide with four or more lines means we will be looking at that slide for at least 10 minutes. We also know that the presenter will be reading from the slide as well. Think about breaking the slides apart into multiple slides to keep the audience’s attention. What you don’t want is your audience to be reading your slides and not listening to your words. We can’t do both and when a slide with a list of sentences appears on screen we read first. As far as words per line, eight words per line would be the maximum. Any more than that and the font size will be too small.


3. What are the Best color combinations for best fonts to use?

The best color combo is a white background with black text. Think “high-contrast.” There has to be a significant difference between the background and the text. Here is a tip: think about your slide as a grayscale image. A red background with black text on it will be almost the same level of gray if you made it a grayscale image. A better choice would be a red background with white text.

The font style isn’t as important as size, but stay professional in your choices. Serif and San Serif work great. Don’t get cute and keep things simple. Definitely no Dom Casual or Brush Script. Use Palatino, Times, Arial, or Helvetica. Adding Multiple-colored words or WordArt isn’t professional. 

As far as size, 20-point font or larger, 30 point is better. Remember, just because you can read the text on the computer screen does not mean the audience can read it from the back of the room. 


4. What are the Biggest mistakes you see when people design slides?

The three biggest design mistakes I see are: 

a. Cramming too much information on one slide. What can you delete to make your message even clearer?  

b. Using the same template for every slide. Build in variety to your slides. Every slide should not look the same. If every slide has a title bar with a header and then six bulleted sentences. It’s boring. 

c. Getting too cute with your designs. Believing your information needs something to make it stand out, so the biggest mistake is trying to add five different colors to “punch up” the slide. It’s distracting. Think simple.


5. Do you have examples of “good” slides that are industry specific?

Finding good slides takes time. One of the best places to see good slides is www.slideshare.com. You can search by industry or subject matter. You get the good and the bad, but the presentations with the most favorites or views usually have some good ones in them. Once you see something you like and it communicates the right message, take a screen capture of it and start to build an archive of good slides. The more your have an archive to look through, the more creative your slides will be. Building the archive of good slides is critical. The worst time to try and be creative is right before your presentation deadline. Set time aside every month to search out new slide ideas and to build up your archive. 


6. WHat Recommendations do you have for putting video clips into a PowerPoint?

The best way to insert video clips into a PowerPoint is to download the video onto your computer and then use the “Insert Movie from file” selection inside of PowerPoint. Don’t rely on a wifi connection to play your video, it rarely works. There are several YouTube.com videos that can help with this step by step process. 


7. What's coming next . . . What is going to be more cutting edge than Powerpoint?

95% of business still runs on PowerPoint. The premise behind the question is, “there has to be something better than bullet points.” That’s what Prezi started as, “better than PowerPoint.” The problem is Prezi has a huge learning curve, it’s frustrating and it only animates the transition between slides and not the actual slides. Prezi doesn’t share well with others. The secret isn’t a software package, it’s a rethinking of how to be more creative with your slides. So instead of asking what’s next, think, “How can I communicate more effectively with PowerPoint.” The simple answer is to stop relying on PowerPoint templates to create your slides. Think if I had a blank slide what would I want this slide to say? Can you draw it? Get off the computer, use sticky notes to plan your presentation, then draw your slides on a blank sheet of paper. Think how can I build in variety into the presentation. 


8. Can you walk us through How to insert an entire Excel spreadsheets on a slide.

The easiest way insert a spreadsheet into a slide is to use the “Save as…” command to save the spreadsheet as a PDF. Then you can insert “picture from file” and then select which page to insert.  Is it possible to summarize the spreadsheet or the findings in a chart? Charts always communicate more than data.  To insert a chart into a presentation, right-click on the chart and select “Save as picture.” In PowerPoint select insert “Picture from file.” If at all possible insert an image of the spreadsheet or chart first. The way things look in a spreadsheet can shift when you import it into PowerPoint. To be safe insert only graphics into your presentation and not spreadsheets. 


9. CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH How to fade out graphs on a slide when building numerous graphs one at a time.

The easiest way to create a series of graphs in a presentation is to create one chart slide first. Then duplicate the slide and replace the chart on slide #2. It’s much easier to duplicate slides and use a Fade transition between slides then it is to insert multiple charts into one slide and use the animations palette to fade in and fade out each chart. What’s the easiest and fastest way? Multiple slides that are duplicated is much faster than playing with the animations palette. To the viewer, your slide series looks the same if it’s one slide with multiple charts on it or a series of slides with one chart on each slide. 

Think one graph/chart = one slide. By putting more than one graph on a slide you are just making each graph or chart unreadable by the audience. The bigger the graph the better. When have you ever said, “This chart is too big.” Never. They are always too small.  Instead of one slide full of charts, can you do a 10,000-foot level view on one slide? Then on the next can, you blow the chart up to talk about a specific area? Think 10,000-foot overview, 1,000-foot specifics, then a quick fly out back to 10,000 feet. Or in better terms, overview, specifics, then back out to wrap up. This process will keep your audience engaged. 


10. What recommendations do you have to creatively display statistics?

Think about how to simplify the statistic as much as possible. Does there need to be an x and y-axis? What can I remove to get to the meet of the statistic? Once you know what to remove, use the chart as a template and redraw the chart in it’s simplest form. Always put the full chart in your audience handouts. 

Also, can you distill the statistics down into an infographic? Find the story behind the numbers. Tell the story not the statistics. To find out more on infographics do a Google search on infographics. It will give you some ideas on how to display information in the cleanest way possible.