The Dark Slide of the Room (Side B): An album of the worst PowerPoint mistakes (and their remedies!)



Welcome to Side B (Part 2) of my album of songs containing clues to eight PowerPoint mistakes that I have learned the hard way. Incase you missed Side A, click here. If you’d like to read and listen to my complementary album of my top eight PowerPoint design tips, click here.


Don’t forget that you can listen to this album on Spotify as you read! Go on, click play!


Ok, so the album has been flipped and the needle is hitting the grooves, let’s hear the next song.


SONG 5: “ALL THE SMALL THINGS” BY BLINK-182

This mistake seems obvious, but it happens all the time. Have you ever said “I know you can’t see this but….”. You should NEVER have so many words on a slide that your text ends up being so small that your audience can’t read it (again unless it’s for dramatic effect or you are proving a point!). The whole point of projecting information is so that your audience can see it! Try to make it easy for the audience to see the information you are referencing.


Mistake 5: Making information so small your audience cannot see or read it


If you do have a lot of text or statements that you simply MUST project, split them up over multiple slides and make the statements larger easier to read. As I mentioned, if you need to show a “full” infographic, chart, report or something else for the audience to get an impression of how everything relates, do it, but then zoom in on the relevant information as you talk through it. There are multiple ways to do this. You can clip a part of the image, make it larger and make it come in as an animation or put on a separate slide. There are also magnification tools out there which let you zoom in on individual parts of a slide live, while you are presenting.


Remedy 5: Enlarge your text and split it up over multiple slides if necessary


SONG 6: “PREDICTABLE” BY THE KINKS

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Don’t cry over spilt milk, especially when the cat’s got your tongue. But it’s ok because every cloud has a silver lining. Bored? I can hardly type for yawning. Word clichés are boring. Cliché’s are not always in word form, however. Some readily available clipart can be cheesy, predictable, and unprofessional looking (the bendy-looking character anyone?). Try to avoid clichés in words and visuals because they can send the unfortunate message that not much time or effort has gone into your content (even if that’s not true).


Mistake 6: Using cheesy clip art and clichéd images

There are LOTS of options out there for great looking icons, images and photos to use in your presentations. There is some good clipart already available to you if you look a little harder through your clip art library in your presentation software. There are many free and paid options to get access to a broader library of images too. Do some research and ask around, and say goodbye to the “bendy person” forever.


Remedy 6: Search for (and possibly buy) great icons and images


SONG 7: “I WANT IT ALL” BY QUEEN

We’ve all heard of scope-creep in the context of projects. Presentations suffer from the same thing. What starts off as a simple topic, often gets over complicated as more and more great ideas get thrown around and you want to include them all. This is especially true when your writing process starts with selecting from existing slides – it’s often VERY tempting to want to use a great looking slide, whether you actually need it or not. When you have run out of time and find yourself frantically clicking to get to your “thank you” slide, it’s a sure sign that Freddie Mercury’s catchy song has influenced your presentation.


Mistake 7: Having so many slides that you run out of time

There is a three-part remedy to this mistake, which you can do in order.


  1. Read aloud the goal of your presentation. Oops, did you not write one down? Do that now to remind yourself of what you are trying to accomplish. Just by doing this, it helps you focus your mind back to what your audience needs to hear, rather than on what you want to say.

  2. Speak your whole presentation aloud and time yourself. If you exceed your allotted time, you HAVE to cut stuff. Doctor Who is a time lord. You are not. If you cannot speak through all your content within the available time limit during rehearsal, you cannot expect to miraculously end on time at the actual presentation

  3. Be ruthless when you cut down your information. Keep your goal firmly in mind and take an honest appraisal of your content. Remove everything which doesn’t specifically align to your goal (no matter how much you love the slide, story or anecdote). It’s MUCH better to go into a presentation knowing that you have some breathing room in your time slot, than hoping that you will end on time.

Remedy 7: Keep your goal in mind, time yourself and ruthlessly cut unnecessary slides


SONG 8: “DO YOU REALLY WANT TO HURT ME?” BY CULTURE CLUB


I like to apply the golden rule to presentations. Do to others what you would have done to yourself. Take a step back and ask yourself how you would feel if someone was going to deliver this deck to you. If YOU would be excited to look at it and hear what’s being said, awesome! If not, then you might have some room to improve.


Mistake 8: Subjecting your audience to slides that you wouldn’t want to look at yourself


There are many great blogs and articles out there to help you improve your presentations. I have distilled down my own secret sauce into my book Before the Mic. My book focuses your attention on how to write words that are meaningful, memorable and motivational and THEN create the visuals to match. My own personal philosophy is substance before style, and this is liberating because you realize that you do not need to be a graphic designer to be an effective presenter.


Remedy 8: Ask experienced presenters for feedback on your slides before you present!


Let’s summarize! As we’ve just come to the end of the whole album, let’s summarize all eight remedies:


Remedy 1: Make sure your audience knows where to look

Remedy 2: Pick a few colors and keep it simple

Remedy 3: Make beautiful slides for your presentation, create a handout with detailed information

Remedy 4: Write your presentation FIRST, then create your visuals to match

Remedy 5: Enlarge your text and split it up over multiple slides if necessary

Remedy 6: Search for (and possibly buy) great icons and images

Remedy 7: Keep your goal in mind, time yourself and ruthlessly cut unnecessary slides

Remedy 8: Ask experienced presenters for feedback on your slides before you present!


Want to review Side 1 again? Click here!

Do you have any songs in mind which relate to presentations? If so, I’d love to hear them and possibly feature them in an future blog post and Spotify playlist! If you’d like to learn more tips to increase your confidence while presenting, check out my book Before the Mic.

Thanks for reading (and listening!) Glenn.

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