In my prior article on PowerPoint mistakes to avoid, I covered three common mistakes that I see over and over again with presentations that use overheads. Of course, there’s plenty more mistakes that novice (and yes, even experienced) presenters make when they use this medium for presentations and we’ll get to more of them in future articles. For now, here are three more PowerPoint mistakes that you should try to avoid.
1: Using text that is too small.
It’s tempting to try to fit a lot into each slide, especially if you’re using your slides as handouts and you’re trying to save paper (everyone is trying to be more green these days). It’s also tempting to try to include that extra point on the same slide as the related points as opposed to having it on a slide by itself.
Regardless of the reason, if the text on your slides is too small it will distract the audience from your speech. Nearsighted audience members will squint, hunt for their glasses or ask their neighbors what a line reads because it’s tough to see printed words and not try to read them.
If you find yourself having to shrink the default fonts to fit everything you want to on a slide, you may want to either split the info into multiple slides or only include the details in a handout or your speaking notes. If you’re not sure if a font size is too small, you should try it out in a room with a similar setup. Grab a seat in the very back while you have someone else cycle through your slides so you can get the audience’s perspective. You’ll be surprised what you’ll be able to notice by doing this simple thing.
2: Allowing your slides to be the focus instead of you.
People who hate public speaking and presenting love using PowerPoint because they can hide away in a dark corner and simply read the slides. This is a surefire way to bore your audience in record time (even great speakers have a hard time keeping folks awake in a dimly lit room).
When you’re giving a presentation (especially if it’s for work), it’s your chance to shine. Take advantage of it so people will see you as an expert.
3: Using irrelevant material in your presentation.
Something I’ve been seeing a lot of lately is people adding unnecessary slides to their presentations. I’m surprised at the number of times I’ve seen someone add a picture or a joke to their presentation and said “I just threw this in because I thought it was funny” or “I thought this was cool so I just put it in here.” If it doesn’t add to the goals of your presentation, leave it out.
Other times, people include slides with a lot of technical information that the audience couldn’t possibly read, let alone process mentally, in the two seconds the presenter shows the slide. The most common place that I’ve seen this is with marketing presentations where slides that include fine print such as warranty information, office locations or pricing packages. It’s better to save this information for handouts so the audience can read it at their leisure. One particular software company includes slides with pricing, packages and service plan information at the end of each of their presentations. I’ve seen at least 10 presentations from this company and during each of them, the presenter spends less than three seconds on each of these slides despite the fact that these slides contain anywhere from 50 to 400 words.
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes whenever you plan a PowerPoint presentation. Ask yourself what your audience expects to get out of your presentation and focus primarily on that. Then, work your own goals into the presentation (such as a sales pitch) but save anything with fine print or fine details for your handouts.
When done correctly, PowerPoint presentations can be especially effective. Just make sure that you plan it with your audience’s needs in mind and you’ll put yourself ahead of those that don’t take this extra effort.
James Feudo owns the Boston Web Design Agency JVF Solutions and loves blogging about personal development and communication in his spare time.