PowerPoint isn't going anywhere anytime soon and if you don't commit to improving your control over it, neither will your business this year.
So, it's time to hit the deck! What vows are you willing to make – and keep – to create more powerful points in your PowerPoint presentations? These 12 most powerful presentation New Year's resolutions will make sure your audience gets the message.
1. Know when to zip it. Congratulations, you're a walking library on your subject. The passion you have works like a magnet to draw in audiences. What's wrong with that? Two things for starters: You risk rambling on too long to the point your audience loses interest or diving so deep into the subject matter that what you're saying starts going over their heads. Vow to chop, edit and streamline so only the essential elements and essence of your story are there to tell.
2. Clear the presentation path. Every slide should present a clear and complete thought. When slides don't make a powerful point, attentions begin to wander and eyes start to shut. Vow to keep your points sharp, tell your audience only what they need to know and train your slides to back you up.
3. Skip the slide shuffle. Admit it, you've done this before: Take five slides from this presentation, three slides from that one, seven slides from another, swipe a few stats from a Google search, cut and paste someone else's cool chart and toss in an intriguing infographic you saw a tweet about. That's the equivalent of a builder building a house with spit and glue. Vow to create a consistent and fresh story with a solid beginning, middle and end.
4. Don't jargon their memory. "Going forward, let's think out of the box to leverage positive momentum and deliver more ROI by reaching beyond the low hanging fruit." Ironically, the worst thing you can do to create buzz is use buzzwords. Robotic corporate speak not only softens messages, it obliterates them. Vow to use words and concepts that entice and engage. Ever hear of wordhacking? Most presenters haven't, but it can be very effective. That's how "Tebowing" caught on.
5. Respect occupancy limits. You've seen those signs in restaurants and elevators – Maximum occupancy: 77. Well, presentation slides also have their limits, only they apply to words and images, not people. Font styles and sizes should be big and legible – especially to folks in the back. Remember, it's a slide, not a brochure! Vow to create slides that don't resemble an eye chart. Better yet, try the 8ft Rule.
6. Avoid using labels. Labels are a lazy presenter's version of a headline. They're also a waste of space. Customer Service is a label. Our Top 10 Customer Service Commandments is a headline. Vow to translate labels into headlines that turn heads. Make your point and then present the proof.
7. Stick to your type. You're not Steve Jobs or Richard Branson, so don't try to be. There are all sorts of different – and effective – presenters. Think of PowerPoint as your partner. You may not be structured, but PowerPoint decks can be. You may be forgetful, but PowerPoint isn't. You may be nervous, but the only feelings PowerPoint possesses are the ones you put into it. Vow to understand what type of presenter you are. Then, build on your strengths and let PowerPoint cover your weaknesses.
8. Get an image makeover. Your audience isn't going to get the picture unless you frame it for them. It's easier for people to remember – and visualize – messages when a mental picture of it flashes through their brain. The picture superiority effect has proven that. Vow to never again use clip art or overused, generic stock photos that don't visually – and originally – work with your words to reinforce your points.
9. Never drive blind. You're the only one behind the wheel of your presentation. So it's your job to read the signs (audience engagement), avoid sharp turns (getting off topic) and steer clear of dead ends (vague thoughts). Vow to craft clear, complete and compelling stories that consist of a solid structure built around a hook, the meat and a payoff. Then, don't forget to add a little verbal seasoning to drive your points home.
10. Don't abolish the polish. Your message is meant to be appealing. So, the last thing you want to do is send it to the party dressed ugly. Outdated templates, frenetic formats, goofy or gag-worthy graphics, and eye-stressing font styles will make a mess of your message. Vow to polish your presentations into a class act. For starters, master the alignment tools, grids and guides built into PowerPoint and design slides using the Rule of Thirds.
11. Be prepared to rest your case. Your messages aren't going to be very believable if you don't present an Evidence Stack to support your story. Passion and your gift of gab will only get you so far. But have you established enough credibility to win over "the jury"? Vow to put your audience in the position of continuing to analyze your story – and add the next chapters on their own as it applies to them – after you leave.
12. Be bulletproof. Bullet points are basic and boring. They're about as exciting and stimulating to read as a laundry list. What great story have you ever read that contained bullet points? What was the last bullet point you saw that connected with you emotionally? Vow to exercise control over bullet points and never put more than three on a slide. In fact, don't even use them at all if you don't have to.
What are your PowerPoint presentation New Year's resolutions? Please share them with us. Have a New Year filled with happy business outcomes, healthy sales messaging and successful presentation strategies.
Read our post on how to effectively sell your ideas!
Guest contributor Gavin McMahon is a PowerPoint obsessive. He's a founding partner at fassforward Consulting Group, and blogs about PowerPoint, communication, infographics and message discipline at makeapowerfulpoint.com. You can tweet to him @powerfulpoint.