Using PowerPoint presentations in your life is a fine art. Back in the day, people used to simply chuck all their content onto a handful of slides, stand up in front of the audience and read it off. If you want to create an engaging meeting or presentation, you need to master the basics.
However, this doesn’t come easily, and there’s a lot of things you’ll need to learn about both on and off the screen. But, during our time using PowerPoint presentations, we’ve come to realise that most people make the same mistakes over and over again.
These common mistakes are so easily avoided and can even make the difference between a successful presentation and a failed one. So you don’t make the same mistakes, we’ve sourced out 12 of the most common mistakes made so you can head it the right direction when it comes to creating outstanding presentations every time.
1. Using Too Much Written Content
One of the biggest and most common problems that occur in PowerPoint presentations is using too much text on each slide. This is a huge problem for many reasons. The main problem is that this distracts many people from what you’re actually saying.
Naturally, people will want to read everything that’s on the screen and will zone out from the information that you’re saying. Of course, most people have different reading speeds while some may read it quickly, others won’t get to the end before you move on, causing them to feel disconnected from the presentation or to switch off completely as they don’t feel included.
As a rule of thumb, less is more when it comes to text on your slides. Try to stick to using bullets points, and any essential text should be divided between multiple slides. To stop this from happening, check with tools like Easy Word Count, trying to limit yourself to 50 words per slide.
2. Using Complex Charts
Charts are sometimes a necessity when it comes to PowerPoint presentations, and they are a great way to convey large amounts of data in an easy to read format. However, it’s easy to get carried away when designing these charts and add too much information per graph.
Hand in hand with the consideration above, try to keep your graphs simple and easy to read. Otherwise, you’ll lose the focus and attention of your audience. If you have a lot of data to convey, simply use two graphs set over two individual slides.
3. Leaving the Presentation Midway Through
During your presentation, you may find that you need to play a video, show some images or in some other way share some form of multimedia with your audience. However, this is one of the worse things that you can do since it breaks away from the flow of your presentation and opens up a huge risk for errors to take place.
You need to make sure that you embed everything you want to share within your presentation. Photos, video and even YouTube videos can all be embedded in your presentation so make sure you do.
4. Using Poor Transitions
We all know that PowerPoint comes with a tonne of built-in transitions which take you from one slide to the next. This includes fades in, fade-outs, cut-across slides and much more. However, these are simply distracting to your presentation and should be avoided at all costs. Simply use hard transitions.
5. Not Formatting Images Correctly
If you’ve ever seen a PowerPoint presentation where someone has added images, either from Google Image Search or otherwise, you’ll be aware of the fact that it’s so annoying when the presenter hasn’t removed the white background from these images.
This may be fine if you’re using a plain white background for your presentation but if you’re using a theme or a coloured background, this makes your presentation look tacky and poor and will damage your reputation and your credibility in the eyes of the audience. The best way is to create your own images for PowerPoint presentation so you can be sure that they are not abstract but absolutely perfect for the topic of your presentation.
Mike Walker, a presentation expert from Big Assignments, shares, “Making a background transparent is an easy problem to solve by either using Paint, Photoshop or simply downloading and using PNG files with transparent backgrounds.”
6. Poorly Contrasted Slides
Contrasting is one of the most important habits you need to learn for creating professional PowerPoint presentations. The worst-case scenario of this is using white text on a white background, which you’re obviously not going to do.
However, using a light text on a light background is still just as bad, especially for those sitting at the back of your presentation. If you’re using a dark background, use a light font and visa versa.
7. Hiding the Important Information
When it comes to conveying your information within the slides of the presentation, it’s essential that you highlight the important information. This means you should avoid putting the most important information at the edges of your slide, rather into the middle where it’s highlighted for all to see.
8. Using a Poor-Quality Presentation
This is a huge problem if you have checked over your presentation before presenting it. You need to make sure that your presentation is high-quality and free from errors, otherwise, you’ll be harming your own credibility as a presenter and people won’t take you seriously.
Since your slides shouldn’t have much text on them anyway, any errors, such as spelling mistakes, grammar errors and poorly used punctuation will stand out like a sore thumb. It’s essential that you check your presentation and proofread it to make sure that it’s perfect. You can use tools like ProWritingAid for checking grammar and proofreading tools like Ox Essays to guarantee this level of quality.
You’ll also want to fact check any figures or statements you include to make sure they are correct, to stop the spread of misinformation.
9. Using ClipArt
Personally, this is one of the most annoying mistakes that people implement into their presentations. ClipArt just represents a tacky presentation and shows that you’ve either rushed your presentation and couldn’t be bothered to find images or just didn’t put enough effort into your presentation.
In some cases, it may seem comical to put them into your presentation but, again, this just emits a ‘bad-quality vibe’. Avoid them at all costs. Instead, try to prefer high quality content such as icons or diagrams that will fit perfectly with your brand colors and identity.
10. No Slide Consistency
While you want your slide to be engaging, eye-catching and to hold your viewer’s attention, it’s bad practice to mix up colours, fonts and text styles in your presentations. If you’re going from slide #1 that has black text of a certain font of a certain size to the slide #2 that ha much larger text, a different colour and a different font, this will just get distracting and confusing.
Try to use a clear and easy to read font, such as Calibri and avoid handwritten-styled fonts at all costs. If you choose to use certain colours, choose a handful that complements each other well but don’t choose anything too contrasting. If you’re representing a business or organisation, try to fit your slides to match your brand’s image. Also, make sure you to make a smart use of PowerPoint's color themes to manage colors efficiently.
11. Reading from the Presentation
This is easily one of the most common mistakes that people make and guarantees an unsuccessful presentation. Always remember that your slideshow is there to accompany what you’re saying and shouldn’t be used as a script.
If you’re simply reading from your presentation, this is incredibly boring for your audience since they could just sit and read it themselves and there’s no real reason for you to be there. You’ll also find that you naturally spend most of your time reading the slides, rather than engaging and directing your focus at your audience.
As a guideline, you shouldn’t be using your slideshow at all, and there’s no real reason to look at it, only to make sure that you’re on the right slide. 99% of your focus should be on your audience.
12. Testing Your Presentation
Before every single presentation that you present, be sure to set aside time to test out your presentation in the room that you’re hosting it to make sure that you’re well prepared. Test out your equipment to make sure everything is compatible with the setup, and you won’t have to spend time fiddling around with wires to make sure that everything works.
You’ll also want to make sure you have a position in the room where you can stand so everybody can clearly hear what you’re saying as well as being able to see the presentation clearly. Be sure to text that even the people at the back can read your font selection so you’ll have no problems with anyone.
This is all extremely common mistakes that we see in presentations all the time and, as you can see, there are so easily avoided if you’re aware of them. Use this article as a checklist when creating your presentation to make sure they’re perfect every time.
About this author: Brenda Berg is a professional with over 15 years of experience in business management, marketing and entrepreneurship. Consultant and tutor for college students and entrepreneurs. She believes that constant learning is the only way to success. You can visit her personal blog at Letsgoandlearn.com