Issue #181 March 24, 2009

PowerPoint Tip: Different uses for the tool

PowerPoint is used as a tool to create many different outputs: projected slides, flipbook presentations, reports and even memos. Last week during a session in Los Angeles, I suggested that although there are different outputs from the same tool, there are a number of things that are common when using PowerPoint to create clear communication. No matter what output you will be creating, it needs to be structured so that it makes sense for the audience. Before you start using PowerPoint, determine what your presentation goal is, where the audience is now, and what points you need to make in order to move them from where they are to where you want them to be by the end of the presentation. The second common aspect is clear design. Your slides need to use colors that have enough contrast so that the audience can easily see them, the font you use needs to be big enough to be easily read, the slides need to be uncluttered and the focus of the design should be in presenting the content, not filling a significant amount of the space with branding or logos. The final commonality is the opportunity to use visuals to communicate more powerfully than just slides full of text. The KWICK method outlined in my book “The Visual Slide Revolution” helps presenters transform the “wall of text” slides into persuasive visuals. Research shows that visuals plus text communicate more effectively than just text. Are there differences between some of these output formats? Yes. The biggest one being that a printed format can tolerate more text if done properly. If you are including more text in a flipbook presentation, format the slide so that the key point is twice as big as the additional detail you are including for the audience to refer to later. This will help the audience focus on the key points as they skim the document while you speak. If you are using PowerPoint to produce a report or memo, the difference in text size doesn’t need to be quite as large, but make sure the key points stand out. Whatever output format you create using PowerPoint, keep these ideas in mind when creating your next set of slides.