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Putting the POWER in PPT

I hurt my foot the night before conference and spent much of the weekend resting it on a packet of frozen peas. Thanks everyone who helped me as I limped about.

I hurt my foot the night before conference and spent much of the weekend resting it on a packet of frozen peas. Thanks everyone who helped me as I limped about.

Last weekend was the Romantic Novelists Association conference – and as the associations webmistress (I really like the sound of that) and all round geek queen, I led a workshop on taking the technical terror out of giving talks.

Authors give talks – and for people who spend most of their lives alone talking to imaginary people in their heads, a talk can be a daunting experience.

There are two things that are, to most people, equally terrifying. One is the prospect of standing in front of people, with all their eyes on you – speaking out loud and saying things that make sense, or at least are not totally nonsensical.

The other fear is filling that big blank screen behind you with something interesting. I can help with that.

PowerPoint is the Microsoft Windows tool for doing presentations. The Mac equivalent is Keynote (or PowerPoint for Mac). When you start to prepare your presentation, decide your primary goal. Is it entertainment or to pass on information? It’s always both, but which is more important? Then suit the presentation to the audience.

A presentation is like a book-

  • Hook your audience right at the start
  • Keep the pace going throughout
  • Make sure every slide has something of interest
  • Have a strong ending – a summary and perhaps a call to action

Begin with a slide design: Create a cohesive design for your whole presentation.  If you can, create your own a background image then set font styles and colours.

The DESIGN tab offers templates which can be used if you are in a hurry or new to this.

The software offers templates which can be used if you are in a hurry or new to this.

Use lots of Images: – Images add interest to your presentation, but make sure you respect copyright. Use your own images or those from free image sites. Always use high resolution images. Look for about 700 to 1,000 pixels per side. Smaller images tend to go out of focus and fuzzy when blown up on a very large screen.

Use the Format Tab: This tab offers design options, and easy ways to centre images and text so they fill the screen evenly. The selection offered will change according to what you are dealing with i.e. text or a picture.

The format tab is really useful. Play with it and see how it can help

The format tab is really useful. Play with it and see how it can help

Text: is added through a next box. Sans serif fonts are easier to read from the back of a large room.

Using Colours: Cool colours (blue/green) are good for backgrounds. Warm colours (orange and red) are good for the foreground and text. Use a dark background with white text for dark rooms and a pale background with dark text for light rooms (most common).

Be consistent: use copy and paste of text boxes or duplicate a slide to keep elements in the same position and size in every slide.

What the slide says. There can be too much of a good thing.

What the slide says. There can be too much of a good thing.

Using movement: Animation is used on elements within a slide – to make them appear, move and disappear. It works with both text and images. Each animation effect has options for direction, time, placement etc.

Animations are recorded on the slide - and the menus to the right allow you to set the speed and direction of the bouncing ball

Animations are recorded on the slide – and the menus to the right allow you to set the speed and direction of the bouncing ball

Transitions are used to move from one slide to the next slide. They are applied on the incoming slide. They can make the change less abrupt, can hide difference in the slides, and highlight a key slide.

Interesting transitions highlight a key image - but don't get carried away. Not even by George.

Interesting transitions highlight a key image – but don’t get carried away. Not even by George.

Moving Images – Video (and audio) can be embedded in a slide and played with a click. This is done via a link to the original file location, and if you change PCs or move the video to a USB drive or similar, the link may not work so you may have to embed it in the new location. Online video can be embedded, but that won’t play if you are not connected to the web in your new location.

THE CONTENT:

The biggest mistake people make is to have too many words on the screen. And then to read them out loud. Also avoid having too many consecutive slides with just text – images are far more engaging.

Boil down the information to a few key points and have only one topic per slide. Avoid sentences. Bullet points are better. Some slides don’t even need text. A good image is more powerful if it is up there with nothing else. You should also pause to give people time to interpret the slide and to react. Short periods of silence are okay.

Your slides should have plenty of “white space” or “negative space.” Less clutter is more powerful and remember that every single slide is important

Just as you do when writing a book, edit the presentation. Check for typos and make sure the order of the slides is right for what you want to say.

The slide sorter gives a nice overview of your presentation.

The slide sorter gives a nice overview of your presentation.

THEN STOP!

There comes a time when you have to stop fiddling about and looking on the internet for a slightly nicer cat picture. It’s time to practice your presentation as if you were doing it for real. Stand up. Put a chair in front to represent the audience. Use the clicker. Work on timings and add them to your notes. Practice to the correct length of the talk. Do not ramble. Do it as often as you need to until you are comfortable with the material.

The final part of your presentation is the call for questions. As well as engaging the audience, this is great for filling time if you have rushed through the presentation and still have another five or ten minutes to go.

And don’t forget to promote your books right at the end – after all, that’s why we put ourselves through the terror of doing this sort of thing.

The other part of doing presentations of course is making sure you have the right plugs etc. for the projector. I’m over on the TakeFiveAuthors blog talking about that today too… so pop over for a look to make sure you will be properly equipped on the day.

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5 Responses to Putting the POWER in PPT

  • Great advice Janet. I knew some the basics you’ve outlined here, but I’ve learnt lots of new ideas from your tips too. Thanks!

    • Hi Jenny. I confess every time I attend any presentation, one part of my mind is busy seeing if there is anything I can learn form the way its done. It’s worth popping over to You Tube and watching any of the Steve Jobs videos. He was the master of communicating in this fashion.

  • Many thanks,Janet, for both articles on technical matters. I am, as you know, completely technically useless, and these will help enormously. It takes some of the pain out of having to miss the conference to be able to read up about a talk I would definitely have attended. 🙂

  • Many thanks! I shall do my best to try this in front of the dog and husband!

  • Clear, concise and logical. What more can one ask. Terrific!

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Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence Finalist for The Wild OneColorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence Finalist for The Wild One
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