“You probably can't see this” and 2 other mistakes you are probably making with your presentations

Have you ever said or heard during a presentation “you probably can’t see this very well”?

Do you find yourself subscribing to the 6 X 6 model of designing slides (6 words, 6 lines, and a title)? Do your 6 X 6 slides act as your script during your presentation?

Mistake #1: Using font that is too small or graphics that are unclear

I was at a conference recently and the presenter said those exact words: “you probably can’t see this very well”. And she was right. I couldn’t see it very well. I started focusing on what I couldn’t see and stopped paying attention to the presenter.

TIP #1: Make sure your font is large enough for the room (I like to start with font size of 40 and go up or down from there). In a similar vein, make sure your images are clear, too. If you ever hear yourself saying “you probably can’t see this very well”, make a pact with yourself to fix your slides so you never, ever have to say this again during a presentation!

Mistake #2: Subscribing to the 6 X 6 (or 4 X 4 or 5 X 5) philosophy of slide design

The 6 X 6 philosophy for designing slides seems to be common in colleges and universities. I once overheard a colleague in the next cubicle tout her 6 X 6 slide designing knowledge that she learned during college as a Communications major. She was essentially arguing with the marketing professionals in the firm that she knew better. No! Stop the 6 X 6 madness.

I’ve found when people use that many words on a slide, I either pay attention to the slide, or I ignore the slide and pay attention to the speaker. PowerPoint can be such a robust tool for aiding in your story telling, but 6 X 6 is one of those retro 90s ideas that should not make a comeback.

TIP #2: Vary your slides. Try image-only slides that match with your message or tell your story. Limit yourself to 6 or so words on an entire slide. If you absolutely need a 6 X 6 slide, limit it to one slide. Go out on a limb, and try part of your presentation without a slide!

Mistake #3: Using slides as a teleprompter

I think most people use text on slides as a teleprompter. They can throw their message together quickly and just read from the slides without actually preparing. The way to get around this is to practice your presentation out loud.

I learned this tip from a former news anchor. We worked for the same organization, and she did an employee-only presentation on presenting. My role was to introduce her and to lead some of our group-interactions. I probably had 5 minutes of speaking within the 45 minute presentation to our internal audience. We practiced seven or eight times prior, and she encouraged me to practice on my own, too. I realized how she makes everything look so effortless: she prepares relentlessly.

TIP #3: Practice. Practice. Practice. Practice in front of a mirror. Practice recording audio and playing it back. Practice videoing your presentation and playing it back. Practice with your family and friends.

PowerPoint, Google Slides, and Apple Keynote get a bad wrap, yet slides can be a great tool for your presentation. Your presentation is not about your slides, though. It is about connecting with your audience and telling your story. The slides are just tools. But they make a great team!


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