The 5 Biggest Mistakes You’re Making in PowerPoint

The 5 Biggest Mistakes You’re Making in PowerPoint
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What if I told you that PowerPoint presentations don’t have to be dull? What if there is a world beyond blank backgrounds and boring bullet points? What if I told you there’s a whole host of easy ways to liven up your decks? Steering clear of these 5 PowerPoint presentation mistakes can be the key to unlocking your true potential as a presenter. By recognizing and rectifying these pitfalls, you’re on the path to crafting presentations that resonate, inform, and inspire. Join presentation topic expert Richard Goring on an enlightening journey of exploring the nuances of common yet underestimated presentation mistakes in this blog. Keep reading to refine your approach and elevate your presentation prowess to captivate and engage your audience effectively.

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The 5 PowerPoint Presentation Mistakes

1. Overloading Your Slides

A common presentation mistake is cramming as much information as possible onto a slide. Understandably, you want to make sure that your audience doesn’t miss a single bit of important information. Still, by laying everything out like a game of Tetris and in tiny font, you’re guaranteeing they’ll miss more than just a bit. Bullet points may be useful when you’re taking notes, but they have no place in a good PowerPoint deck.

This is because your audience physically can’t read and listen at the same time. The words you see and the words you hear are processed in the same area of the brain, meaning your audience has to make a choice: listening to you (the presenter) or reading what you have on the screen. Unfortunately, you’re always going to lose out on your slides in that battle.

If you have to keep all the text (and it’s a big if), then hierarchy can help a lot, putting a few words to summarize the ideas in a larger font with the rest of the content tucked away for reference later. Column-based structures help with this, as does the use of iconography as a visual anchor.

Solution: Ideally, reduce the amount of text on your slide and only use words (even better, visuals) that support your main message so you can talk around what appears on the screen rather than merely reading out what you see. Remember, you can add anything you cut from your slides straight into the speaker notes, so nothing is wasted. Then, setting yourself up for greatness by using simple build animations to control the flow of information is a great way to keep your audience’s attention focused on you.

2. Lack of Visuals

Once you’ve reduced the words on your slide, what do you replace them with? This is when you need to start thinking about what kind of visual aids you can use to support your audience’s understanding.

Graphs and charts are an incredibly useful method for visualizing data, and PowerPoint has a range of tools to allow you to create them in just a few clicks easily. Going further than that, you can also use icons to help emphasize your points, e.g., a lightbulb to represent an idea, a target to represent reaching a goal, or a rocket ship to represent a launch. The right visuals can simplify complex information, boost your audience’s retention and understanding, and, ultimately, make your presentation more memorable.

If you’re not sure where to start, BrightCarbon has a handy guide on how to create visual presentations.

3. Ignoring the Power of Storytelling

One of the most powerful tools you have to ensure you’re holding your audience’s attention is telling a good story. Too many presentations fail to use this key tool, meaning that audience members get lost or bored mid-way through a deck, and they start to concentrate more on what they’re planning to cook for dinner rather than what the presenter has to say.

Creating a strong narrative for your presentation may feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. By keeping your audience in mind and using a Problem, Solution, and Impact structure, you’ll create a captivating plot that you can weave throughout your deck.

Storytelling structure:

  • The problem sets up the context and shows why this is something people need to know and pay attention to. It helps to frame the rest of the story.
  • The solution is the details of what happens or how something works.
  • The impact is the end result – that will often lead to the outcome that your audience will achieve.

4. Not Adapting to Your Audience

Many people start out creating a presentation thinking what do I want to say? What information do I want to convey about my product/service? How should I structure the presentation to suit me? This is why many people fall at the first hurdle and create this presentation mistake. The most important person in a presentation is not the presenter but the audience. Everything you do when creating your deck needs to be done with the audience in mind. Sometimes, your audience’s audience so that the people you are presenting to can communicate effectively with the people that they speak to afterward.

PowerPoint has a handy built in function called Zoom, which allows you to travel around your deck in a non-linear way. This can be extremely helpful in adapting the flow of information to suit the audience that you’re presenting to, as you can hop to different sections of content in response to questions. This interactivity is a great way of keeping everyone in your audience engaged.

5. Not Utilizing PowerPoint Tools

You might not know it yet, but PowerPoint is packed with features and tools that can turn presentation creation into a simple (maybe even enjoyable!) task.

We’ve already mentioned Zoom and how useful that can be. Still, even simple features like crop-to-shape, distribution tools, and animations can help you create visually stunning slides that look like they’ve come straight out of a design studio. The little-known transition Morph is also a secret weapon in your PowerPoint arsenal, as it creates seamless, cinematic transitions at the click of a button! Plus, you can supercharge PowerPoint with add-ins like BrightSlide. It is free and ramps up your PowerPoint productivity even more, making it incredibly simple to create striking, cohesive, and memorable decks.

By addressing these common presentation mistakes and embracing the full potential of PowerPoint, you can transform your presentations from ordinary to extraordinary. Remember, a well-delivered presentation has the power to inform, inspire, and influence. So, it’s time to step up your PowerPoint game and make your presentations stand out.

Headshot of Richard Goring
Richard Goring

Richard Goring is a Director at BrightCarbon, a presentation and eLearning agency. He enjoys helping people create engaging content and communicate effectively using visuals, diagrams, and animated sequences that explain and reinforce the key points, which is supported by plenty of resources and tips.

Connect with Richard on LinkedIn and learn more at BrightCarbon.

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