Monday, January 01, 2001

The Success Coach

Variety, good visuals can improve presentations

By Michael Crom
Gannett News Service

        Question: As a director of product development, I am required to make frequent presentations that pitch new products. I usually stick to the same template and format, but because I often present to the same senior management team, I want to differentiate my presentations to distinguish each product and avoid boring them. How can I go about accomplishing this? — James.

        Answer: Making a persuasive presentation has never been an easy job. And with today's technological advancements, visuals are being integrated into presentations of all types.

        Here are a few guidelines to help you develop successful visuals in your presentations:

        • While you're developing content, think about how you want to present your material graphically. You'll devise a crisper presentation when you do content and visuals as a one-step process. Also, you won't risk putting off the visuals until the last minute — and ending up with less than you need.

        • Create visuals that signal quality. This puts the best face on your presentation, your company, your business and you. If your company provides master slides, use them. If not, use PowerPoint templates. (In the File menu, click on New and look at the New Presentation options.)

        You can also access new templates at the Microsoft Web site,
       com/. Customize the template in any way by simply editing the master. (In the View menu, click Master and select Slide, Title, Handouts or Notes.)

        • Make readability a top priority. Select clean, simple fonts. Arial, Tahoma and New Times Roman are the best choices. Select point sizes that people can easily read. In-person presentations call for 44-point heads and 32-point type for body copy. Reduce the font size if you're doing a Web conference and your visuals are available on a desktop monitor.

        • Limit the amount of text on a slide. Don't use more than six words on one line, and no more than six lines of text on one slide.

        • Go for variety in your slides. Consider charts, diagrams, tables, clip art and sound galleries. But practice restraint. With so many bells and whistles available, the temptation to keep adding multimedia is great.

        • Use animation to sustain interest. If you're presenting bulleted information, for instance, use the dim function. (On the Slide Show menu, click on Custom Animation.) This helps sustain audience attention.

        If you would like more management tips, visit or e-mail The writer is executive vice president, Dale Carnegie Training.


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