Thursday, October 7, 2010

Take your PowerPoints from groan to great

You've seen the articles: "Death by PowerPoint" and other extremely uncomplimentary headlines. Many times these pejoratives are well deserved. Yet, research shows the power of visuals─see a previous post for details. To take your PowerPoints from groan to great, follow these guidelines:

Strive for simplicity

• Limit graphics
• Use bullets instead of complete sentences
• Don't overuse animation─spinning transitions grow old after one!
• Use only 2-3 colors. No surprise, blue is the favorite color of 80% of Americans.
• Strive for the strongest possible foreground/background contrast. Dark type against a light background is easiest to read─especially in subdued lighting. When using light type against a dark background, make sure it's legible.
• Recolor charts, clip art and illustrations to match your palette

Let legibility be your guide

Focus on Fonts
• Use only one or two fonts
• Pick one with a black or heavy version to make titles stand out
• Use sans serif fonts—Arial and Verdana are two classics
• 24 point is the smallest font to use—bigger is better!
• Avoid all caps—they slow down your reader by 13.4%
• Do not underline

Follow the 6 x 6 Rule, then change it up!
• 6 lines per slide
• 6 words per line
• For change of pace, have a slide with a single quote or few words

Keep punctuation to a minimum, avoid:
• Slashes—look like letters when projected
• Exclamation points—often look like the letter “I”
• Periods at end of lines—they’re usually not complete sentences
• Awkward line breaks

Choose an easy to read layout
• Set type ragged right
• Use centering sparingly─difficult to find the beginning of lines
• Use two to three indent levels─maximum

Edit ruthlessly
• Eliminate introductory words—the, in addition
• Avoid awkward line breaks
• Cut redundant words and qualifiers—often, extremely, sometimes
• Replace long words or phrases with short ones

And whatever you do, don't read from your PowerPoint. Well, occasionally I'll read a quote for effect, but to read endlessly from your slides is insulting to your audience. And boring!

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