Four ways to improve your PowerPoint

Steve Kryger

PowerPoint is like email - everyone uses it, but few people have been taught how to use it effectively.

Like email, PowerPoint (and other visual presentation tools) can be used really well to communicate effectively, or it can lead to miscommunication and be detrimental to your overall message.

PowerPoint can do two things:

  • reinforce what you’re saying, and
  • detract from what you’re saying.

Obviously if you’re going to use PowerPoint (and you certainly aren’t obliged to) you would prefer the first outcome. But what techniques lead to this outcome, and which will cause people to be confused as you switch off?

Understanding this is your responsibility, if you choose to use the technology.

In his free e-book entitled ‘Really Bad PowerPoint’, marketing expert Seth Godin provides five rules you need to remember to create amazing Powerpoint presentations:

1. No more than six words on a slide. EVER. There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken.
2. No cheesy images. Use professional stock photo images.
3. No dissolves, spins or other transitions.

His last two points relate to using sound effects and print-outs, which (hopefully) aren’t relevant to the presentations you use to accompany your sermon or ministry presentations.

I’ve given numerous presentations for business and in ministry, using PowerPoint on many of those occasions. After reading up recently on the effective use of PowerPoint, I’m embarrassed about some of the presentations I’ve given, and thankful (and a little amazed) that people walked away understanding at least some of what I said!

So, for the benefit of those in your ‘audience’ (be they your congregation, ministry team or anyone else), put some time aside to learn how to use PowerPoint. Here are some resources to help you:

  • Slide:ology - “unlike verbal skills, effective visual expression is not easy, natural, or actively taught in schools or business training programs. Slide:ology fills that void.” This is a very useful book - the longest read of this list (and also not free), but provides some great theory.
  • ‘Really Bad PowerPoint’ by Seth Godin. Download free here.
  • Great Presentation Design’ - these are the tips given to presenters at the respected TED events. You’ll notice how little these expert presenters rely on PowerPoint to communicate their message, while remaining highly engaging.
  • Five Rules for Better Presentations’ - some great tips from Michael Hyatt. Michael has also compiled a list of presentation resources.

PS - you can learn more about using email more effectively here.