Presentations can be a powerful tool for marketing, business development, litigation, and even for client service. As a lawyer, you may present to other lawyers in CLE programs, use slides to supplement opening or closing arguments in court, lecture for clients and potential clients on legal issues, or use presentations or slide decks to help clients understand legal concepts or the legal process.
Posting slide presentations on your firm website, blog or on social media channels can help you to differentiate yourself from other lawyers and demonstrate your expertise. Presentations are becoming more and more popular as a way to share and consume content online. One example of this is SlideShare, among the top 120 most-visited websites in the world, which was purchased by LinkedIn in May 2012. Users can easily upload and share presentations, infographics, documents, videos, PDFs, and webinars directly through SlideShare and on LinkedIn.
But uploading a slide presentation online is different than presenting in person, because the viewer doesn’t have the benefit of seeing you or hearing your presentation. And let’s face it – we’ve all seen terrible slide decks (sometimes known as “Death by PowerPoint”). If you’re going to share your slides online, it may be more important than ever to ensure that your slides are effective.
Here are three simple tips to help improve your slide presentations.
Keep It Simple
Slides shouldn’t contain complete paragraphs or armies of bullet points. Instead, choose a few words to drive your point home. Pull out your key points, quotes or statistics from your presentation script or handout and use those to create your slides. Less is more. Choose your words wisely, and include only one key message per slide.
When you present live, you can provide attendees with a handout that includes additional background, details and resources that you can’t put into your slides. You can do the same online by creating a document, report or other “handout” that lives on your website (or blog). Then add a link to those materials in your presentation to drive traffic to your site and provide more substantive information for those who are interested.
Type size is most important when presenting live, since everyone in the audience needs to be able to read your slides. But even when posting slides online, you want your message to make an impact, so stick with larger fonts. Guy Kawasaki and other presentation experts suggest that the type size on all slides should be no less than 30 point when presenting live.
Don’t clutter your presentation with too many different font styles or colors. You want your slides to look consistent and follow a theme, both textually and visually, so stick with one font family or a limited number of fonts and use a consistent color palette.
Text alone is boring, especially online. Slide decks that are text only aren’t likely to engage your audiences. Use shapes, colors, images, charts and graphs to visually reinforce your message. Visuals increase retention and make your message more “sticky.”
Seth Godin, in Really Bad PowerPoint (and how to avoid it), says, “Make slides that reinforce your words, not repeat them. Create slides that demonstrate, with emotional proof, that what you’re saying is true not just accurate.” Images pack an emotional punch that words alone rarely (if ever) achieve. For online presentations, use words and images together to create more impact.
Presentation expert Nancy Duarte, author of the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations, recommends in an article “Do Your Slides Pass the Glance Test?” that you use design to emphasize your points and use visuals to their maximum advantage by directing your audience’s gaze.
Use the Rule of Thirds
One way to direct your audience’s gaze in your slide presentations is by using the Rule of Thirds. The Rule of Thirds is a design principle in which you imagine your slide divided in thirds, both vertically and horizontally, creating a grid. The points where those lines intersect are known as “power points.”
Placing images or text directly over one of the power points will immediately draw the viewer’s eye (and their attention). But you can use the rule of thirds in other ways, too. Place text or images along one of the lines for a simple, but visually appealing structure. Or align images or text in one of the top, right, left or bottom thirds of the slide. When posting images of people, line up the eyes of your subject to the intersections in the top third of the grid.
To learn how to create guidelines to help you with the rule of thirds in your PowerPoint slides, check out this article, which gives step by step instructions.
Using these three simple tips will help you create better presentations both online and off and help you engage with your audience more effectively.