What every Business Major should know about presentations

Eric Schmidt is a recent addition to the Microsoft PowerPoint User Assistance writing team. He is amazed that he now gets paid to play with PowerPoint slides. Follow him on Twitter (Schmidt_Eric)!

As mentioned previously, students almost effortlessly express their thoughts through visually fascinating and compelling ways.

And yet, these students eventually grow up, get jobs, and give presentations to other students who grew up, got jobs, and listen to presentations. The transition from student to professional presenter isn’t always easy; somehow, the spontaneous storytelling of youth needs to evolve into the clarity of a professional presentation.

Students ideally make this change before they enter the workforce, while they are developing their communication skills in college. I recently had the opportunity to give a crash course about presentations for sixty undergraduate students at a local university. Since presentation theory has been covered very well elsewhere, I decided to focus on specific methods for refining a presentation.

Here is how to avoid the common mistakes that students make when creating a presentation:

Font and font size. So you found a font that you think is really cool. Will your audience think it’s cool as well? Granted, you may not want to be boringand choose the default font, but you don’t want to choose a distracting font, either.

As well, you want to choose a font size that is large enough so that the people sitting in the very back of your audience can see your text. As a general rule, I’ve found that 28 pt is the limit of how small your font can be before your audience becomes grumpy (or has to visit the optometrist)

Tasteful backgrounds. I’ve never, ever seen a slide with a yellow background that didn’t scorch my eyes (likewise with most neon colors). You don’t need to abuse your audience’s eyes to make your slides look pretty. PowerPoint has even done you a favor: it has preloaded themes that will add some elegance and class to your presentation.

To add a theme to your presentation, go to the Design tab on the Ribbon. In the Themes group, you’ll see a variety of designs you can use in your presentation. Click the one that you like and it is automatically added to all the slides in your presentation.

Maybe there is a theme with designs you like, but you don’t like the color. You can easily change just the color scheme of your theme: In the Themes group, click the arrow to the right of Colors and select the palette that you prefer.

Animations are cool … when used in moderation. I admit it, I have been guilty of adding too many animations onto too many objects on one slide. Animations are most scintillating if used sparingly. You don’t need circles, squares, arrows, and whatnot flying all over the place to add some drama.

Instead, you may find that adding a several animations to a single object at the same time is more appealing than multiple animations on multiple objects. For instance, you might add an object that fades and spins into view by applying a Fade entrance effect to it, then add a Spin emphasis effect to it. Set the start of the Spin emphasis effect to With Previous.

Less is more. Avoid putting too much “stuff” on a slide. You don’t need a diagram, some bullet points, AND a line chart with data labels on one slide to make your point. I find that each form of information shines best when it shines on its own.

With any luck, these little tips and tricks will help you refine that final presentation for your Business Communication class. You could even apply this tips to presentations out in the “real world” …