Sunday, February 4, 2007

PowerPoint by the Numbers

I looked on the Internet for design ideas for PowerPoint presentations for education. My goal was to find some simple ways to make the presentations more effective. I hoped to find some rules--do two of this… or three of that--to help make the design elements easy to remember. I did find a couple rules and quite a few recommendations.

I’m sharing these ideas with the hope that they will be useful as you work with students who are learning PowerPoint… or any other presentation tool.

THREE Guidelines for Design…

1. Determine the Purpose of the Presentation

How you approach the presentation…
Do you want to entertain, educate, or persuade? Considering the topic and the audience, should your approach be formal or informal? The answers to these questions will help to determine the fonts, images, and backgrounds that you choose.

How you use the presentation…
Are you designing the presentation for the screen, the web, or for printing… or for a combination of these? Dark backgrounds with light fonts display well on the screen; however, they do not print well. You may want to format the slides with one color scheme for display and another for printing.

2. Keep the Presentation Simple

Use TWO font families…
Using two font families (in the whole presentation) serves most presentations well. You may want to try light-colored fonts on dark backgrounds. Your audience will find it very easy to view.

Use ONE photo / image / chart…
One photo, image, or chart is usually the most you want on each slide. That, of course, does not include a school or district logo that you might use.

Use SIX words / SIX bullets rule…
Use white space generously. In order to have white space, you must keep the number of words on each slide to a minimum. I’ve read—and tried—several different combinations of how much information you should display on each slide. In my experience, six words per bullet and six bullets per slide are pretty much a maximum. Cliff Atkinson, author of Beyond Bullet Points, says, "When you remove interesting but irrelevant words and pictures from a screen, you can increase the audience's ability to remember the information by 189% and the ability to apply the information by 109%."

Keep the file size SMALL…
Try to keep the file size of the presentation from growing too large. Compress photos. Use built-in PowerPoint features--tables, charts, AutoShapes—rather than embedding and importing objects as much as possible. There’s no magic number for how small the file size should be. Just keep in mind that LESS is MORE.

Follow the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint…
* ten slides
* twenty minutes
* no fonts smaller than thirty points.
Ten concepts is more than enough to learn in one setting… and twenty minutes is more than enough sitting time. And your audience will certainly appreciate that the font size is readable… even from the back row.

Put LOTS of information in the handout…
Create a handout for your audience. Put as much information and detail in it as you want them to know. And tell them at the beginning that you will give them a handout after the presentation is finished so they don’t have to take notes and can, instead, listen to you and watch the presentation.

Use FEW special effects…
Special effects can distract people, so they should be used sparingly. Sounds, especially, can be a problem. If you’re showing the presentation from your laptop, any sound effects may not be well heard by members of the audience beyond the first couple of rows because laptops are not designed to project sound far.

3. Choose Consistent Elements

Use the same…
style of photos,
style of images,
slide transitions, and
templates through the whole presentation.

Final Comments

The slides are an aid to your presentation. They are not THE presentation. So, the words on the slides should support the words you say.

"Right and wrong do not exist in graphic design. There is only effective and non-effective communication." — Peter Bilak, author of Illegibility

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