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Tips for using presentation software

A guide to making the most of the tools such as PowerPoint

Before you start, think about the message(s) you want to convey to your audience. Try to keep them to three or four. Write them down as single sentences. From this point on, make sure everything you say and present contributes to communicating these messages. Be ruthless. Exclude anything else. If you have other material you think might be relevant place it in handouts, not your presentation.

Plan the flow through your presentation before getting stuck into the detail. As a rule of thumb, allocate about three minutes (or more) per slide. Don’t be tempted to say: “I’ll get through that one quickly”. There’s a very good chance you won’t. If you have to present and explain a diagram your audience hasn’t seen before, give yourself some extra time to allow you to confirm people’s understanding.

Decide if or when you want to take questions and stick to it. If you are asked a question and are prepared to answer it then always repeat the question as others may not have heard it. This also gives you some thinking time.

If you’re presenting as a team, give everyone something to do during the presentation but avoid frequent handovers. Give each person a session, if possible.

We are told that research demonstrates that people can track a maximum of seven points at a time. That means a maximum of seven points per slide. If it’s an important point, make it the only one on the slide. Slides that are too crowded with detail are unreadable and unprofessional.

Don’t use slides to remind you what you want to say. Don’t speak to your slides. Don’t read out the text on your slides. Instead, the slides should make the same points that you will make in speech but in a different way. People can easily absorb material from multiple sources so make the most of their time to ensure you get your point across.

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