DON’T put your whole presentation onto your slides… and don’t read them word for word. Most of all, don’t turn your back on your audience to do so! Each new topic or piece of information should be summarized very briefly in bullet points, with only graphs or scientific data outlined in full for clarity. With this data behind you, you should look at your audience and elaborate on the topic in your own words. Even if you’re reading it from a script, make sure your words are different to the text up on screen otherwise the audience won’t know whether to listen to you or read the slides. Pretend you are in a coffee shop, sharing this wonderful information with close friends. You wouldn’t expect them to look at a slide presentation as well. Nor should your conference audience be distracted by data. They are there to listen to you, not look at your slides. If they can get all your information off the screen, why do they need you?
DON’T be profligate with colours. Slides look a lot different up on a big screen than on your PC. Colour combinations that look really funky at home are downright eye-watering through a data projector… for example, never under any circumstances use red text on a dark blue background, dark blue text on a black background, or yellow text on a white background. If your slide has a graded background (that is, it changes from light to dark from one side or corner of the slide to another) then you must choose a font colour that is readable everywhere on the slide. Depending on the background colour this may be quite difficult to the point where it might just be easier to change your background colour. Don’t jeopardize your information in the interests of artistic license.
When presenting tables and graphs, aim for maximum contrast and as few colours as possible. Some colours are just not a good idea – red and green can be impossible to read on certain backgrounds so avoid them if possible. Should you need to differentiate between a lot of different components, make use of bold and italics, and dotted or broken lines where possible rather than lots of different colours (or consider simplifying the information). If the information is critical, consider offering a full version of the slides as a handout for anyone wanting more details.
DON’T try to be clever with animation. Fancy slide transitions – slides that sweep in from left or right, tumble or grow out of the old slide, are at best a distraction and at worst an irritation. Used sparingly they can have great impact… but too much and you will lose your audience altogether. The smaller the audience, the more important this is… how many of us have been at a sales presentation or board meeting where the speaker relied heavily on a slide presentation when all they really needed was to tell us their story? Similarly, if you have a number of bullet points that you are going to talk through quite quickly, don’t have them enter one by one. It slows down your presentation and requires you to be constantly clicking your slide changer. Time is of the essence at a conference and if you have time to indulge in fancy animations and special effects, you simply don’t have enough to say.
Some slide templates for you to download and use in your presentations.
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