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Six Major Mistakes When Doing Powerpoint Presentations

Six Major Mistakes When Doing Powerpoint Presentations

powerpoint slide presentations

    One of the editors here at Lifehack, Chris Smith, frequently writes about technology. As I was reading some of his recent articles, I was influenced to write a tech article of my own, so here it is.

    So, you are sitting in a company meeting and the presenter puts up the first slide. You are probably thinking to yourself,

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    “Oh no, not another Powerpoint presentation – BORING!”

    Unfortunately, most people who use Powerpoint, Keynote or other similar software for making slide presentations completely abuse the technology. Instead of using these programs to enhance their presentations, they end up putting their audiences to sleep instead.

    I’ve been guilty of abusing this technology myself when I first started using Powerpoint as a product marketing manager. Originally, the intent was to replace the use of cumbersome overhead slides and when I realized just how easy it was to create new slides with a computer program, like everybody else, I just went crazy with it.

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    I’m still using Powerpoint these days in my talks and seminars but fortunately after seeing many others make the same mistakes that I did with their presentations, I took it upon myself to get some training on how to best use this tool. To help you out with your own presentations, I have identified six major mistakes that most Powerpoint users make and how you can avoid them.

    1 – Text Too Small

    Quite often, the text used on slides is much too small to read once projected on a screen. A good test to use is go to the back of the room where the furthest audience member would be sitting before you do your presentation.  Put on the slide with the smallest sized text. If you can’t make out the text easily, then neither will any audience member sitting in the back of the room. You will have to make your text size larger (I would suggest at least 35-40 font size minimum). Also, it is a good idea to use sans-serif fonts like Arial (rather than serif fonts like Times Roman) on slides since they are easier on the eyes on a screen.

    2 – Too Much Text

    Another major mistake that many people make is trying to fit in too much text on any single slide. It is a nightmare for audiences when they see a slide jammed full of text. If audience members start reading all the text on such a slide, they will not be able to listen to you as the speaker at the same time. A good rule of thumb to use is have no more than four to five bullet points per slide (I often use just three points) and no more than five words per point. If you have more bullet points, divide them up on separate slides.

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    3 – Reading Off Each Word

    A sure sign of an ineffective presenter is when he or she looks at the screen and reads off every last word up on the slides. From a presentation skills point of view, this is bad because the presenter loses eye contact with the audience. You also don’t want the audience to have to look at your backside all the time. Again, limit the number of words on each bullet point so that you can speak more naturally by expanding on what is actually on each slide.

    4 – Abusing The Bells And Whistles

    Another indicator of an inexperienced Powerpoint user is when too many of the fancy functions from the program are used in the presentation. This would include the use of too many different slide transitions, animations, sound effects, etc. You are not there to impress the audience with your vast knowledge of the different bells and whistles that Powerpoint has. These can get rather tiring on the audience. Keep things simple and remember that the slides are there to enhance your verbal presentation, not the other way around.

    5 – Ineffective Use Of Images

    It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words and images can definitely enhance your presentation. The key is to use them to illustrate major points you are making. Don’t have too many images on any single slide. I usually use just one image per slide. Make sure the image is good enough quality by testing it out on a wall or screen first. Sometimes images that look fine on your computer monitor may end up looking bad when blown up on a wall. Also, make sure any images you use are relevant to the points you are making during your presentation. Don’t just put up images for the sake of having pictures up there. There must be some obvious connection between the images you use and the points you are trying to make.

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    6 – Not Having Backups

    Technology is technology. This means that it can fail when least expected. I’ve had to resort to using somebody else’s laptop when my own failed. It was a good thing that I had a backup copy of my Powerpoint file on a flash drive. From a speaker point of view, it is also a good idea to be able to deliver your presentation without the slides just in case of projector failure. I often bring some props to use in case I have to do a sudden version of my talk without slides and yes, I have had to do this in one or two cases.

    So there you have it. If you can avoid just these six major mistakes that many presenters make out there, the effectiveness of your presentations will be increased dramatically. After you have created them, rehearse your presentations in advance with the slides, as your efforts will make you appear to be a more professional presenter in front of audiences.

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    Last Updated on August 4, 2020

    The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

    The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here’s how to master the Gentle Art of Saying No:

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    1. Value Your Time

    Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”

    2. Know Your Priorities

    Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time?

    For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.

    3. Practice Saying No

    Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.

    4. Don’t Apologize

    A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.

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    5. Stop Being Nice

    Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets.

    Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.

    6. Say No to Your Boss

    Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no,” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning.

    But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.

    7. Pre-Empting

    It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting,

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    “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”

    8. Get Back to You

    Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them:

    “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.”

    At least you gave it some consideration.

    9. Maybe Later

    If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say,

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    “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].”

    Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.

    10. It’s Not You, It’s Me

    This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often, the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time.

    Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

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    Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

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