Archive for category PowerPoint
Visual presentation, when done well, is a very powerful tool. Supporting your sermons, Bible classes or other presentation with strong visual communication techniques can help your message stick in the minds of your audience. But we must learn these techniques and practice them. Just as we would suggest that a speaker who uses poor grammar and speech patterns (can you say, “um”) learn to correct his speech – we need to suggest that those same speakers who flood their slides with words too small to be read, or visuals that flip and spin need to correct their visual language as well. Poor visuals quickly become a distraction to the message. But there are a few simple rules to follow that will get you headed down the road to better presentations that reinforce your message rather than detract from it.
Four Simple Rules for Better Visual Presentations
1. Don’t use built in slide templates. PowerPoint and Keynote both come with built in slide templates. Some may seem somewhat usable and some are downright hideous. The problem with all of them is that they force you into a “Slide Title, Subtitle, Bullet point” approach to laying out your slides. This may work great for engineers presenting project reports or sales professionals presenting regional sales figures and graphs but it is horrible for telling a story or communicating a spiritual message from God’s Word. Using these temples relegates your visuals to nothing more than your sermon or class outline onscreen. THAT IS NOT COMMUNICATING VISUALLY.
Rather than select the same template your audience has seen a hundred time (you know the one – the blue sky with the brown mountains on the bottom of the slide), start with a blank slide with a solid black background. When I say blank, I mean completely blank – no Slide Title, no text boxes, no bullets, zip, nothing, nada! I know at this point you are thinking I have lost my minds, but I haven’t I promise.
2. Use one simple and concrete image that illustrates your point. This is where our problems usually begin. We just get on Google Image Search, find an image, drop it into a box under the slide headline and next to a list of bullet point (usually on a white background) and we are ready to go, right? Wrong! If we really intend to communicate visually – the picture needs to be the right one and it needs to fill the screen. Make it simple and concrete. Very often, the image you need cannot be found on Google. You end up settling for and image that is not quite right, but hey…it’ll do and it’s free! But if it isn’t the right image it will be a distraction. Find an image that is simple and gets right to the point. This is not a time to be esoteric and subtle.
3. Reduce the number of rectangles onscreen. I have posted about this before. As the eye moves through an image on screen, any hard lines work like barriers. The eye stops and follows the line until it hits another one. When your slide layout is made up of a number of various rectangles these hard lines block the eye and there is no smooth movement through the image. Note all of the hard lines in the image to the right. This is a pretty typical slide you would seen on any given Sunday. There are at least 4 rectangles making up this slide; 1) the picture, 2) the text, and finally 3) the square of color that makes up the outside of the slide. All of these hard lines cause the eye to stop and start trying to move through it. That’s why it feels “clunky” and “choppy”.
Now look at the next image. There are only really two rectangles here; 1) the outside edge of the slide, and 2) the box that holds the text. Even at this small size your eye moves from the text to the face of Christ smoothly and fluidly. That is because there are no hard lines to block the eye and redirect it.
Try minimizing the number of rectangles you have onscreen simply by selecting one, simple, and concrete image and letting it take up the whole slide. Place your text in an open area of the image and you will find your slide communicate more effectively.
4. Use the Rule of Thirds. The Rule Of Thirds is an old art trick that helps your images feel more balanced onscreen. I have blogged about this before as well and you might find my previous post helpful. Basically, draw a tic-tac-toe board on your slide. It doesn’t have to be exact, but the closer the better. Where the lines intersect are the “sweet spots” of the image. The human eye likes balance and will naturally go to these spots in an image. Place imporant elements of the image (faces. eyes, key objects, text, etc…) as close as you can to these “sweet spots”. The results will be that the eye moves smoothly through the image. It doesn’t feel chunky or choppy. People are no longer distracted by the layout. Instead they can focus on your message.
I realize that this post is a bit longer than normal (actually I am just trying to make up for not blogging for awhile ), but I hope this is helpful to you. Just try these four simple rules that next time you are assembling a lesson or sermon. You will be amazed at how much easier it is, but also how much better your message connects with you audience.
Give it a try.
Making sure that your fonts are big enough to be easily seen is a critical component of a good presentation. I have written about this problem before, but it continues to be a struggle for many presenters. Too often, in an effort to cram as much information onto a slide as possible, the fonts are too small and cannot be read easily. The result is distraction rather than communication and your message suffers and so does your audience.
So size font should you use? The answer is: it all depends. Different fonts offer different challenges. But there are ways to make sure that your audience doesn’t get eyes strain trying to follow you. Nancy Duarte, in her book Slide:ology, offers some tips on ensuring that your text is easily readable in your presentations.
- Use your monitor size as a guide. If you are working on a slide presentation on a 17″ monitor, place a mark on the floor 17 FEET away (the same for any other sizes; 15″ laptop screen = 15 feet, etc…). Start your presentation and view it from this 17 foot mark. If you struggle to read the text on your screen your audience will too. (Note – I don’t know about you, but while this tip does work, my office is no where near big enough to do this. If you have a laptop, obviously you can move to a place where this is possible. THIS DOES WORK if you can find a space big enough.)
- Use Slide Sorter View. Put your presentation in slide sorter view. Look at the slides at 66 percent size (medium if you are using Keynote on a MAC). If you struggle to read the text on the slides it is too small.
- Actually Rehearse at the Venue. Test the presentation in the actual location where you are going to give it. Stand in the back of the room as far from the screen as you can. Cycle through each slide – if you can read it clearly from here, your audience can too. (I don’t know why people don’t do this more. Yes – it takes extra effort, but it will show you more than font size – pictures that are too dark, transitions that are too slow, etc… REHEARSE!)
- Remember the Age of Your Audience. Follow the advice of Guy Kawasaki: “A good rule of thumb for font size is divide the oldest person in the room’s age by two and use that font size.” (While this is obviously a bit tongue in cheek I would suggest this may still be too small in some situations).
Run through a couple of these tips BEFORE you are live in front of your audience and your presentation will be much easier to read and much more effective in helping you deliver your message. Give them a try.
Want to get your presentation off on the right foot? Don’t start with a blank white slide. This may seem obvious, but I am amazed at how often I see it. While the preacher (or presenter) is giving some opening remarks, a large white rectangle is presented on the screen or wall next to him. There isn’t anything in it. It is just this large white space screaming at the audience for attention – but it has nothing to say. Is there something wrong? Was there supposed to be something there that didn’t work? Why does he want us to look at nothing? All of these are legitimate questions your audience is probably asking while you are talking. And believe me, if they are asking these questions they are not fully listening to what you have to say – you have lost their attention and you haven’t even started yet.
The solution is simple – make one solid black background slide at the beginning of your presentation. A black background slide won’t shine a big black square on the wall – it won’t show up at all. Now, I know some of you are saying that you can just hit the “B” key on the keyboard to “blank” or “black” the slide. While that is true there are two main problems with this approach. First, you may not be right near the keyboard to start the presentation when you want to or your remote may not have this function (although that is rare). Second, and in my mind most important, is that the “b” key doesn’t allow you to start your presentation with a slide transition. Placing a black background slide at the beginning allows you to use a nice fade, wipe or rotate transition to bring your title slide into view. This creates interest and will help focus attention on your first slide.
Rather than distract your audience before you even begin – kill the white slide and start with a black one. Fade in your first slide when you are ready to start and rivet your audience’s attention when and where you want it.
As technology makes access to images, text and video images, easier and easier preachers and congregations need to make themselves aware of the legalities of using these materials in a public way. This presentation by Matt Vega at this year’s Polishing the Pulpit should be watched by every preacher, minister and elder in the church. We are going to be held to God’s standard in respect to how we handle these issues. Just because it is found on the Internet doesn’t mean that you can use that image or video. Make yourself aware…watch the video.
Watch video here – http://ow.ly/HBY7
The way you use images in your presentations can either make it, by reinforcing those things you want people to remember, or break it by being such a distraction that few people hear what you are saying. Garr Reynolds over at Presentation Zen has an excellent blog post about how NOT to use images in your presentations. I have blogged about Garr’s blog before and his book Presentation Zen which I STRONGLY recommend! If you regularly use PowerPoint of Keynote for sermons or Bible class presentations – you need to check this out – PLEASE, if not for yourself, then for your audience =)
Here is a quick idea to help you create better PowerPoint presentation to support your sermons or Bible classes – start with index cards. Too often people start straight into a blank PowerPoint file without a plan. They go point by point through their sermon outline and type in the bullet points and stop occasionally to search Google images for a small rectangular image they can place on the slide. This approach just doesn’t work well. The result is often a static “sermon outline” on screen rather than an attempt to communicate their message visually.
But there is hope. Those 3×5 index cards you can buy at any office supply store are roughly the same shape as the slides you project for your presentation. Armed with your sermon outline and a stack of index cards begin to plan how best to visually present your material BEFORE you ever even open PowerPoint on your computer. As you pour through your outline look for elements you want to emphasize visually and go through the process here:
- Take a blank card and draw (yes, you can!) what words and images you want on the slide. You don’t have to be a Van Gogh here, even simple stick figures can say a great deal about what you are trying to visualize for your audience. (The book The Back of a Napkin by Dan Roam is a great example of what can be communicated with simple stick figures and diagrams.) You just want to get a sense of what kind of image you need to search for later – two people shaking hands, a image of the cross, an empty tomb, etc…
- Be specific. Write the exact words or phrases you want to put on the slide on the index card. If you have to write too small for the words to fit easily they will probably be too small and crowded on your final slide to be effective. If you aren’t sure about readability, set the card 8 to 10 feet away and see if you can read it easily. If not, your audience will struggle when it is projected on the walls. Reduce the number of words to as few as possible.
- Lay the cards out in order and look at the flow from slide to slide. Does it make sense? Is it connected? Are the major sections well defined? At this point you can rearrange and reorder the cards any way you want. Create a stack and flip through them one card at a time to see how the ideas will play out on screen. Note that any changes in order may need to be reflected in your sermon outline as well.
- Once you are satisfied with the flow, open PowerPoint and lay out your slides one at a time based on what you put on each card. Google search (or visit a stock photo site like iStockphoto) for the images you ALREADY determined you wanted to make your point visually. You know what you are looking for – the problem will be finding it. THIS IS THE KEY! Often times people start looking for images before they really know what they want. They have an abstract idea and begin the search and far too quickly settle for what they find. Determine before you ever go to Google exactly what you want. You may not find it exactly, but you will be much closer to your mark.
This approach will help you be more intentional about the flow of your presentation and the images you choose to put on the screen. It will help keep you focused. Try it – you may be surprised at how much it helps.
About 5 months ago I wrote about Slideshare. This website allows you to post PowerPoint files to be viewed over the internet. As a test I posted the file below from a sermon I did using images from the Hubble Telescope interspersed with Bible verses. Well, without doing much promoting to drive traffic to it, it has been viewed 1100 times. In internet terms 1100 isn’t reaching the millions of views that some viral YouTube videos get, but I got a Bible based message on creation to about 220 people each month for the last 5 months(avg). I’ll take it. Think of what we could do if we tried to get the word out and promote these presentations. In addition to the online views, it has also been downloaded almost 500 times. Who knows where it has gone from there.
We need to look at new tools like Slideshare as opportunities to reach people. Each day, there are people seeking through these electronic tools. Will they find the Lord’s church spreading the message of God?The Beauty of the Universe
Often times I am asked, “What is the best size font to use for my PowerPoint?” The answer is simple – one that is readable! That may seem a bit flippant, but it is the correct answer. You presentation should not be a eye test!! Bottom line is no matter how profound your lesson may be if they can’t read it from where they are sitting, it will detract from your message. Different auditoriums are different. What works in a small building may not work in a larger one. The size of the building, the size of the projected image, the colors being used on the slide, the font chosen, and even the brightness of the projectors all factor into how big your font should be. In other words, there is no universal answer to the question. TEST IT! Get into your auditorium, project your presentation, GO TO THE BACK OF THE ROOM and cycle through your slides. Are they readable? If they are – you found the right size font. If they are not, make them bigger. It is not really rocket science, it just takes some extra time.
Follow the “10-20-50” rule (actually it is more like a set of guidelines…)
There are some that suggest the “10-20-30” formula for your presentations. TEN slides, TWENTY minutes, THIRTY point font. While this may work is a small boardroom type presentation I can assure you that it won’t work in many larger auditorium settings. Thirty point font is too small in many situations and so I suggest a change to “10-20-50”. While again this concept should not be seen as a universal antidote to unreadable presentations, it can provide a starting guide from which to work.
10 SLIDES – Your presentation should not have more than a total of TEN slides to present your message. The idea here is that too many screen changes and transitions can become a distraction. Also, limiting yourself to ten total slides forces you to focus and simplify your message to its core elements. There certainly isn’t much room for rabbit chasing here.
20 MINUTES – Keep you presentation to twenty minutes when possible. Some suggest that after twenty minutes most people’s attention spans start to wane and they start tuning out. I have to say however that I have sat through presentation where I was tuning out far sooner than twenty minutes because the speaker didn’t seem interested or excited about his material. I have also sat in presentation that lasted well over and hour where I was riveted to the speaker because he was passionate and enthusiastic. Again, this should be seen as a guide, not a hard and fast rule.
50 POINT FONT – Keep your font size about 50 points at all times. This is where I personally think the “10-20-30” rule falls apart. Thirty point lettering seen from a distance is very hard to read. It also encourages the presenter to put too much text on each slide. Strive to limit the number of words you use on the slide (don’t just read full sentences off your slides) and make them as big as you functionally can. Now I know, I can hear you already – “there is no way I can fit everything I need to say on the slide using 50 point font.” My response is direct and to the point – you probably have too much text on your slide – but that is a topic for another post. In the mean time, simplify, simplify, simplify.
The 66% rule
There is another technique that I think can be very helpful in helping you select a more readable font size without leaving the comfort of your computer screen. (I actually like this better than to “10-20-50” rule.) After you have created your slides (or at least a few of them), switch to Slide Sorter View (in Keynote it is called Light Table). This view defaults to 66%. Scan through the slide in this mode and this size. If anything is difficult to read – it is too small!
Try these tips in your next presentation. Readability is a common problem and one the is curable with a little extra time and though. Remember, just because it looks good on your computer screen doesn’t mean much. You are sitting 24 inches away!! Test your presentation when you can in the environment where it is going to be viewed and make it readable. Remember, if they cannot read it it only serves as a distraction to your message.
One of the most common mistakes I see in creating PowerPoint (or Keynote) presentations deals with how images are presented in the slide. Sadly, the templates and wizards that come with these presentation programs often reinforce bad layouts. Many of these templates ask for a line to text for a title which sits above a rectangular image that has been inserted (see image 1). You’ve seen it before. Probably more times than you can count. So what’s wrong with it? The answer lies in how our eyes move through an image.
The slide area itself presents a rectangle on the screen or wall. The edges of this rectangle “contain” the images and text you use to communicate your message. When you place another image inside this “container” its edges create barriers that our eyes run into. Rather than allowing the eye to move smoothly through the slide area, these hard edged rectangular images actually block eye movement. Hard vertical edges form lines that our eyes just don’t want to cross. We will certainly cross them, but not smoothly and easily.
The second problem this layout creates is that often times images are presented too small to really help communicate. Because they are relegated to a small rectangle in the bottom portion of the slide they often lack punch and emotion. They seem more like afterthoughts than deliberate choices to communicate your message. In addition, in a larger auditorium this smaller image can be much harder to see clearly from the back of the room.
Remove rectangles to allow smoother eye movement
So what do we do about it? The best approach to take in laying out your slides is to remove as many rectangles and hard vertical edges as possible. Often this can be done simply by making your image fill the entire slide. This allows the eye to move through the image itself, not just bump up against its edges. Your eye moves unobstructed through the image to the text you want them to focus on. This allows the image to help reinforce your message. Large images not only aide eye movement, they can convey more emotion and impact. As you can see from these two examples, the slides with the images full screen create more impact and tend to communicate a stronger message.
You cannot always avoid adding rectangular images and boxes into your slides, but the fewer the better. Look for ways to eliminate these barriers and your slides will be more effective and easier on the eyes.
One of the biggest issues I see with PowerPoint presentations is that many of the slides are crowded and out of balance. Often times images are even distorted to try to make enough room for the title and the five, full sentence bullet points that need to be squeezed onto the screen. The first improvement to be made is to reduce the amount of material on each slide. The second improvement to make is to learn to use “The Rule of Thirds” to balance the visuals (text and graphics) an the slide.