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8 Things You Shouldn’t Do In A PowerPoint

June 9, 2009

written by Brandon Wang.

Incredibly, even with technology so advanced and the population of the world so incredibly knowledgeable, people still insist on doing the most spastic and annoying things in a PowerPoint.

Of course, we are talking about students here, we are talking about salesman who really just want to make a point, and for people who don’t exactly spend hours in Photoshop perfecting a design.

Of course, there are 8 things you can do to avoid the craze and make your PowerPoint stand out. We’re going to show you how to do that.

1) Do not use WordArt, under any circumstances.

WordArt is both outdated and extremely ugly. It’s horrific! Just taking a look at the default selection of styles should alert you to the immediate fact that WordArt is extremely ugly, and you should never use it.

2) Don’t use more than two animations per slide.

Better yet, don’t use any custom animations for slides at all. There’s nothing more annoying than whiz banging text and pictures that fly around on tracks for five minutes before coming to a stop.

Only use animations for displaying text one by one so your audience does not get ahead of you, and please only use artful fades for this. Clickety-clackity typewriters should be banished. This is the new age.

3) DO NOT READ OFF OF YOUR POWERPOINT!

There’s nothing more annoying than watching 1) a speaker turn around and read off of the PowerPoint, or 2) a speaker reading off of a piece of paper containing the contents of the PowerPoint.

Instead of using text and then just reading off of it, consider concisely writing on the PowerPoint only the main point of what you are talking about at the moment. Feel free to accompany pictures, or even replace text with images.

4) Don’t use the themes.

Although newer versions of Office come with themes that improve greatly upon the previous versions, you still shouldn’t use them. Opt for a non-distracting grayscale background color, such as white, gray, or dark gray (try to avoid black).

You want to give focus to what the slide is talking about. Sometimes I vignette the background with a darker shade of the color so it really focuses on the bit of text in the middle.

5) Prepare a speech, but don’t read off of it.

You should always prepare a speech. This is what makes a PowerPoint a PowerPoint: so you don’t just read off of your slides. But similarly, it makes a lot of non-sense if you just stick your nose in the speech.

Make sure to look up at the audience. Even better, memorize the speech so you can walk around while delivering. If you have trouble memorizing but can easily vocalize your thoughts, write down the points of your PowerPoint and then you can talk about it as you see it.

6) Time your slides or bring a small clicker.

Incredibly annoying is when the speaker is engaging the audience in incredibly useful information but then stops, walks over from the side of the stage at which he or she was standing to the podium, try to change the slide, give up, and then say to the entire audience, “Hey, will you change the slide?”

Seriously now. Bring a clicker, and make sure it works. You can also time your slides, but that might not work out if you have any questions, slow down, or lose your train of thought for a second.

7) There are two slide animations to use: fade, or none.

You should either fade each slide, or you shouldn’t use a slide animation at all. Other animations that come with PowerPoint, such as windmill, blinds, etc, all distract the audience. You want to capture them, not annoy them.

Runner-up slide animations include Fade to Black and Slide Down/right/left/up, but ONLY if you know how to use them. It is a favorite technique of mine to make each slide look connected to the other so sliding the slide makes it all look connected.

8) Don’t be nervous; be yourself.

Nervousness is the by-product of the fact that you have not rehearsed enough. If you have the script imprinted in your head, you know it will work out, then you won’t be afraid when you see a crowd of people. Why? Because you know it will work out.

Relax. Be your best in front of the audience. If you start to freak out, just think that this is just another one of your countless rehearsals (that you did, right?) and that everything, again, is going to work out.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. June 10, 2009 4:04 pm

    amazing, you know PHP and everything, but when it comes to turning off smilies, you’re useless…

    anyways, very good points, although i would like to add an extra fact:NEVER resize a picture when se use powerpoint. if you need a bigger picture, google it or you a different one. there’s not much that’s more distracting then a blob of giant pixels on the side of the screen.

  2. Trevor Huxham permalink
    October 8, 2009 2:43 pm

    These are some great tips—especially the one concerning not cramming text into the PPT, but merely using it as a guideline/skeleton for your actual presentation.

    However, I must point out that WordArt has been drastically improved in Microsoft Office 2007. The limited set of WordArt styles that dates back to Office 97 (or 95?) is totally absent, having been superseded by new Web 2.0 era-suitable designs.

    • October 18, 2009 7:57 pm

      You are right, and it is true when Office 2007 was released it gave the design community quite a fright because the users could now create decent-looking graphics.

      However, it is only a matter of time before all web-2.0 graphics start getting old again, and soon people will get annoyed at the flashy and annoying reflections and gloss. It was the same thing years ago with drop shadows.

      • Mohane permalink
        January 9, 2010 1:38 pm

        You just let yourself go there buddy. If you actually were a student, no school accepts those kinds of powerpoints. Schools ALWAYS require some kind of word art, animations (other than those two), etc. I see so many inconsistencies in your writing that show you really aren’t 12. And those people who believe you are? Idiots. Mindless idiots. Believe me, I can see through your ruse (as can another of my friends, he isn’t in my state though). So why don’t you tell us for real how old you are?

        Most 12 year olds with your experience will do one of two things, either lie about their age to keep people from disrespecting them because they’re young, or two, flaunt it and tell it to every person possible, BUT they won’t say it as many times as you do.

        Also, looking at your posts, you’re not 12. Most kids don’t use Gmail, they opt for Yahoo! mail instead. Also, if you were a kid, you’d notice the big design flaw on your home page, and then you’d change it. You’re leaving it there hoping that people think that BECAUSE you’re 12, you made a mistake like that and made it ugly.

        No, sir. You are not tricking me. I first heard about you when I was 12, and I knew you weren’t 12 then, and I know that you aren’t know that I am 13.

        I no evidence to believe that you are 12 and all the evidence to say that you aren’t. I have more evidence but why should I tell you if you plan to be more believable?

        Anyways, good day sir, I realize that you’ll probably censor this message so whatever, I hope you take into consideration that there are those who realize you aren’t 12 (or 13).

      • January 9, 2010 4:19 pm

        @Mohane: Your comment gave me quite a chuckle, if you don’t mind. I do have to offer a rebuttal to your statement though, because you clearly did not give your comment much thought.

        First of all, you are right: no school accepts these kinds of PowerPoints… a few years ago. The school atmosphere has progressed, perhaps not as much as I would like it, but it is still an improvement.

        In many projects, teachers have given me special rights to have “creative freedom” on my projects. For example, during a video project, I was given permission to use Premiere Pro and After Effects instead of Movie Maker. It is a sign that teachers recognize that the school environment is changing.

        Your second point is that I should be lying about my age, and you’re right: it’s what I still do. Some of the time. Notice all these inconsistencies between Brandon Wang and Brad Enderson? I sure do. Brad Enderson is the cover-up for my age I’ve been using for four years now.

        Your third point is that I should be (chuckle) using Yahoo! Mail instead of Gmail. I don’t know where you got your statistics from but most of my friends use Gmail. Some use Yahoo, and still others use their provider-based email. Besides, who are you to tell me what email service to use? I use Gmail coupled with Google Apps and I think it’s fine.

        I’m sorry I’m not “tricking” you, because you already seem to be tricking yourself.

        Also: I’d honestly love to hear about my “design flaw” on my home page. If there is one, please let me know and I’ll try my best to correct it.

      • Mohane permalink
        January 13, 2010 7:00 pm

        If you read it correctly, I said “Most kids use Yahoo Mail! instead of GMail.” Not that you should switch or use Yahoo instead. I use both myself. I only know one other kid my age who uses GMail.

        And I have no idea what school you go to, but so far, no middle school I’ve heard of assigns video projects. I’m sure there are but honestly, I’ve never heard of them setting a requirement for the majority to use Windows Maker other than a recommendation.

        As for the design flaw, in BrandonWang.com, the rounded block of white with your text as an intro, there is your design flaw, it’s big, bold, and it stands out. It’s ugly and doesn’t fit in with gradient next to them and the background images that changes.

        I would also like to know, if you lie about your age and you know that you have major inconsistencies, why lie about your age and then admit to lying about it? Especially if you’re willing to outright say that you lie about it. Sure, I lied about my age, until I was 13. At this age, sure people think they’re smarter than you, but if you can prove that you are mature, they don’t care.

        As for your character, I find you rather intriguing for some reason. I realize that I show myself as patronizing and in my previous post and most likely the earlier part of this post, I have a rather rude tone and I do apologize, however if you would, would it be possible to continue this conversation in private?

      • January 15, 2010 8:35 pm

        Patronizing indeed. Interestingly, where I live, most students tend to use Gmail. Probably only about 10% of my friends use Yahoo, and only for memorability purposes.

        Our school believes in encouraging technology. We do video projects sometimes, reviewing books and making trailers for them, and other times we make “newspapers” and other interesting things. I think it’s great that students get the chance to interface with technology.

        I never really though about the rounded block of white as a design flaw. Now that you’ve said it that way somehow that’s all I can see it as now. I don’t think it’s that ugly to be honest; it’s supposed to be big and bold. I’ll leave it.

        Why do I lie about my age? Because I have to. Ever visit a (non-adult related) website that says you have to be 18 or older? Or maybe you just don’t want them to know your full real name. That’s when that name comes in handy.

        You can choose to continue the conversation in private if you like by emailing me. However I will post responses to this comment thread publicly if you choose to reply publicly.

  3. November 8, 2009 4:30 pm

    To me, WordArt is absolutely horrendous. I simply can’t stand it!
    I have to take a computer applications class at school, and we always have to use WordArt! It’s horrible!
    But if everyone did what this post said, we’d have a little bit better world, wouldn’t we?

  4. BillyDean permalink
    February 22, 2010 4:51 pm

    where are numbers nine and ten????

    • February 22, 2010 4:58 pm

      The Cookie Monster ate it.

      But in all seriousness, I dropped them off the list. They didn’t make the cut, but I forgot to update the title. I’ve changed it accordingly. Thanks!

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