5 Tips for Next-Level PowerPoint Presentations Nicci Troiani Quick: Can you remember the last amazing PowerPoint presentation you watched? If the answer is no, that’s not surprising. Many slide-deck presentations fizzle, with the presenter droning on as he or she reads through page after page of boring data. Dull PowerPoints have reached such epic proportions that Dave Paradi–author of 102 Tips to Communicate More Effectively Through PowerPoint, as well as eight books and three other Kindle eBooks on PowerPoints—now conducts the “Annoying PowerPoint Survey” to help people avoid common mistakes. So how do you avoid “Death by PowerPoint” and dazzle your audience? Fortunately, it’s not hard. Here’s how to wow the people sitting across the table from you. Be ready to toss your slide deck. PowerPoints can be a great prop but be ready to ditch yours if it’s not helping you achieve your goal for a meeting, such as winning new business or securing capital. If your audience is showing signs of getting bored or, in a smaller meeting, asks to skip the slide deck and have a conversation instead, you’ll be much more likely to win them over if you communicate in the style they like. That doesn’t mean you’ve wasted your efforts by creating your slide deck. Save it as a follow-up item to send when you thank them for the meeting. Use your presentation to highlight key points—not the whole story. If it looks like your audience is receptive to your PowerPoint, don’t use your presentation like a teleprompter and simply read your slides. That was the number one source of complaint in the 2017 Annoying PowerPoint Survey, cited by 67.8% of respondents. Another related gripe that showed up in the survey was using “full sentences for text,” mentioned by 51.6% of respondents. A top-notch PowerPoint will share important headlines only—and limit the bullets to five or six, maximum. If you need to share additional information, provide a longer handout, such as a white paper, report or memo—or send one in a follow-up email as an additional touchpoint with your audience. Keep it easy on the eyes. Make sure the font is big enough to be viewed from a distance. The number three complaint in the Annoying PowerPoint Survey was “text too small to read,” mentioned by 49.3% of respondents. Black type shows up most clearly, so it’s usually the best bet. If you want to add some color, limit yourself to a handful of hues, so you don’t overwhelm your audience with a Crayon-box approach. Also be careful in choosing your font. Sans serif fonts are easier to read than serif fonts. A simple font like Arial is always a safe bet. Avoid a data dump. Using facts and figures to make your case can be helpful, but don’t overload your audience. There are only so many statistics they can absorb. Limit data to findings from the most respected sources you can find and only include those that are truly important for the audience to remember. To draw attention to a key statistic, try putting single number on one slide with no written explanation other than what you offer verbally in your presentation. It’s a good way to arouse viewers’ curiosity and keep them focused. Use simple visuals. “Visuals too complex” was the fourth-biggest complaint in the Annoying PowerPoint Survey, mentioned by 33.65% of respondents. As Paradi put it in his survey announcement, “Unless the visuals are clear and easy to understand, they don’t help the audience, but further confuse them.” Don’t use more than one photo or chart per page, so the audience knows where to look. A “busy” PowerPoint they have to decipher can distract them from what you’re saying. Limit your charts to those that can be easily understood from a distance. Although it’s gotten easier than ever to create complicated graphics, sometimes they are best reserved for ancillary materials where they can be more easily digested. In almost every aspect of creating a great PowerPoint, less is more. Take the minimalist approach and you’ll have an edge in keeping everyone’s interest.