Seth Godin, the master of all things marketing, shares some valuable lessons on how to make an impression with your powerpoints. I am definitely guilty of some of the worst trangressions (like bullet points) but I suppose some of these old habits die hard.
In particular, I like his 5 point list below:
No more than six words on a slide. EVER. There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken.
No cheesy images. Use professional stock photo images.
No dissolves, spins or other transitions.
Sound effects can be used a few times per presentation, but never use the sound effects that are built in to the program. Instead, rip sounds and music from CDs and leverage the Proustian effect this can have. If people start bouncing up and down to the Grateful Dead, you’ve kept them from falling asleep, and you’ve reminded them that this isn’t a typical meeting you’re running.
Don’t hand out print-outs of your slides. They don’t work without you there.
Other than Seth, the other masters of the art of presenting are Steve Jobs (whose product launches are always spectacularly choreographed), Guy Kawasaki, Lawrence Lessig and of course the guru of all gurus Tom Peters. Most of the time, these masters do not have elaborate 20 point slides (Seth says bullets are for the NRA) with complicated charts and graphs. Simplicity, it seems, is the key to powerpoint success.
The best reference on how to create presentations that sizzle AND sell is Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. Simply the best online reference on this subject matter. And its all free.