Top Tips for Creating Successful Main Stage PPT Presentations

August 09, 2017

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Most advice on 'How to PowerPoint' is based on the idea that you're going to present to a few people in a small conference room, either directly from a laptop, or projected onto a small screen.  And that IS the most common use of the software.  But someday you may find yourself on the Main Stage at a conference, standing in front of 100s or maybe even 1000s of people in a huge convention center or hotel ballroom. On the big stage - with a big screen - the rules for PowerPoint are a lot different. 

Here are some quick tips:

SIMPLIFY YOUR DATA. Lots of PowerPoint experts will tell you not to use words or charts in your slides, to use pictures instead.  That is great advice if you are doing a Ted talk or giving a motivational speech.  But for the rest of us - we need to use PowerPoint to convey information, facts and figures, and that means charts.  So - go ahead - use charts, but use them well.  A typical chart might have twenty or thirty or a hundred data points on it, but you are most likely only going to talk about one or two - so focus on that. Manipulate the data to show off the one most important point.

THINK ABOUT THE PERSON IN THE BACK ROW.  The slides you cram full of information that look perfectly fine on your laptop will be completely unreadable for the poor person sitting in the back of a ballroom, 200 feet or more away from the stage. The easiest way to do this is to spread your points over many slides.  Take your 3 or 4 (or 20) bullet points and make a slide for each one.  Yes - your ten slide presentation will now be 90 slides - but no one will care if you are clicking through them at a rate of 3 slides per minute. Your talk will still be 30 minutes long and you'll have the added benefit of keeping every one awake by constantly changing the view.

USE A SINGLE, SIMPLE FONT.  Distraction is your enemy - avoid it by sticking to a single font for your entire presentation. Anything you can do to aid the clarity and simplicity of a slide is going to help the audience. A simple sans serif font (the ones without fancy decorations at the ends of their strokes) like Arial or Calibri is best.  And pick a font you know exists on all computers. Your slides may look just lovely on your laptop - but when you move them to another computer that doesn't have your fancy font installed - your slides will become a mess.

MAKE YOUR PRESENTATION USER FRIENDLY.  You may not be the one controlling your slides. Big events will have a large staff of A/V technicians who will be running the show behind the scenes. There won't be a place to plug in your laptop on stage - so you'll hand off your PowerPoint to a graphics operator who will load your slides along with everyone else's to a computer (and a backup computer) located backstage. You will advance your slides with a remote control that may have only a single button. The operator will receive the signal from your remote and advance your slides on both computers. If one computer has a problem the second is there to ensure the audience never knows. The point is - make sure your presentation doesn't require you to go back and forth or jump around the deck.  Start on slide one and go straight to the end.

POWERPOINT ISN’T A TELEPROMPTER.  If you need or want a teleprompter - scrolling words to read so you don't have to memorize - then hire a teleprompter and write out your speech word for word.  Better yet - explicitly indicate the spots in your script where your slides should advance and let the graphics operator advance for you while the teleprompter operator gives you your words. This way - all you have to do is get up on stage and read. But if you plan on standing on stage and reading your slides aloud to the audience - you are wasting everyone's time. They can read your slides for themselves; they don't need you to do it for them.  Your slides should complement your words - not prompt them.

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