Issue #121 October 31, 2006

PowerPoint Tip – Scary Slide Mistakes

Today is Halloween for many and it brings to mind thoughts of scary things. I want to share with you today some of the scary mistakes I have seen presenters make so that you can avoid these mistakes. Is there text there? – When I was working on a presentation for a client in the travel industry once I came across a slide for a ski resort that demonstrated what not to do when putting text on a picture. The slide had a gorgeous picture of a snow covered mountain top – but then they put white text on top of the picture. Of course the letters on the snow disappeared, leaving a confusing partial phrase. The lesson here is that the best way to add text to a picture is to use a semi-transparent screen behind the text so the text has a contrasting color to make it stand out. Where’s the exit? Let me out now! – A lesson in presentation structure was illustrated brilliantly by an agenda slide that I saw. This agenda had 23 lines of text. I could point out that 23 lines of text is way too many lines for a slide, but a bigger problem is the real issue here. A presentation needs to have a clear goal and structure to be most effective. If in creating the key points for the presentation you discover that there are more than five major points you need to make in order to move the audience from where they are to where you want them to be, it means that you need a second presentation. I see this mistake often in sales presentations where a single presentation should really be broken into an educational first presentation and a persuasive second presentation. Anyone for dessert? – A new assistant was trying to impress her boss with her knowledge of PowerPoint and decided that one way to do so was to show the boss that she could use every font on the computer and in almost every color. The resulting text was like looking at fruit salad as every letter in every word was a different font and different color. The lesson here is to stick with one primary font and color for your text and only use a different color or font for emphasis. Unfortunately the type of mistakes I shared above are far too common. If you want to avoid these and many more mistakes that can turn your presentation into a scary experience for your audience, get a copy of my book “Guide to PowerPoint”. It will show you what is effective with plenty of “good” and “bad” slide examples and show you how to create presentations that work. Get your copy by going to