How Speakers Can Create Killer Presentations

Speakers have limited time, we need to make our presentations work
Speakers have limited time, we need to make our presentations work for us
Image Credit: DESENHO FRITO® F

Let’s face it – when we give a speech, we don’t want to go in there defenseless. If it was just going to be us standing on a stage talking with an audience, we’d all feel rather exposed. To provide ourselves with a sense of cover, we often show up with a deck of slides that we’ll be presenting during our speech in order to share the importance of public speaking with our audience. This does afford us some protection; however, if we do a lousy job of creating the slides then we’ll have sabotaged our presentation and we may just be wasting our time up there. What does it take to allow a speaker to deliver a killer presentation?

Follow The 10 / 20 / 30 Rule

Oh wait – you didn’t know that there was a 10/20/30 rule? Guy Kawasaki who is a somewhat famous speaker came up with this one. It’s really pretty easy to remember. Guy says that when you decide to use slides as a part of a presentation, you need to limit yourself to 10 slides. Your presentation should take no more than 20 minutes to deliver. Finally, the slides that you use should contain no fonts that are less that 30 points in size. Hmm, that sorta changes everything for you doesn’t it?

Go Black And Don’t Come Back

When we first sit down and start to pull slides together for a presentation, we generally just open up PowerPoint and get to work. What this means is that we almost never take any time to think about what the correct background color for our presentation should be. Good news for you – I’m going to tell you what you should be doing. The background color for just about all of your presentations should be black. If you use a white background (like everyone else does), then you’ll just come across as being clueless and nobody wants to do that.

Keep It Short

When we are looking at a brand new slide, our minds start to race and we start to think about all of the cool things that we can add to the slide. When that starts to happen, we need to put the brakes on it. What we need to do is limit ourselves to only using 25 words (or less) per slide. We’d really like to have our audience listening to what we are telling them instead of having them spend their time trying to read our slides.

Become A Builder

One of the most common formats that speakers like to use on their charts are lists of either bullets or numbers. There are a couple of different ways that we can go about presenting this type of information: we just display it all at once or we can set it up so that as we click, each line shows up on the screen. It turns out that its really better if we “build” our slides and have them show up blank and then add our bulleted information to them one click at a time. One of the advantages of doing this is that you will be able to introduce the story that you are telling in a step-by-step fashion.

Stick It At 30

When you are putting text on your slides, you need to make sure that all of your text is using at least a 30 point size. I just checked this out and it turns out that 30 points is actually quite large. What this means for you is that there is a very good chance that the text that you had been hoping to put on your slide is no longer going to fit. The result of using fonts that are this large is that you are going to have to spend some time trimming your text in order to make it fit. This is always a good idea.

Sans Serif Is Your Friend

Yes, I do realize that it’s one of the almost trivial questions that every speaker has to deal with when they start to pull together a slide deck: what font should I use? All too often we simply don’t give this any thought and we use the default font that PowerPoint provides us with. Bad move. You really should care because the fonts that you use are going either make it easy or hard to read your words. This means that you should use a sans serif font, make it bold, and make it white (on your black background).

Four Is Your Max

Finally, just exactly how much information should you plan on placing onto a single slide? If you are like most of us, you’ll keep adding bullets to your list until you run out of room. It turns out that when you are creating a list, you are going to want to limit yourself to having no more than four bullets per list. If you believe that you need more than four bullets, then either you probably need another slide or else you are simply trying to say too much.

What All Of This Means For You

Rare is the day that a speaker wants to show up on stage without some sort of shield that we can use to place between us and our audience. Since we generally can’t bring an actual shield with us during a presentation, we generally go with the next best thing – a deck of PowerPoint slides. However, doing so can cause us some problems if we don’t know how to create killer presentation that will allow us to share the benefits of public speaking. What do we need to know in order to do this the right way?

We need to start things out by adopting the 10/20/30 rule. If we follow this rule then we’ll use no more than 10 slides for a 20 minute presentation and our presentation will only contain fonts that are at least 30 points or more. The slides in our presentation will use a black background to make our information jump out at our audience. We’ll limit ourselves to 25 words per slide in order to keep our audience’s attention on us. When we have bullets to present, we’ll make the slide build by clicking to reveal each of the bullets one-by-one. All of the text in our presentation will be at least 30 point and if we can’t make it fit, then we’ll drop some words. We’ll use a sans serf font and we’ll limit ourselves to no more than four bullets per slide.

A lot of these suggestions for building a killer presentation are pretty tough to do in the real world. We have so much information that we want to share with our audience that we’ll quickly run into problems – there simply won’t be enough room on 10 slides to contain everything that we want to say. This is when we start to realize that it’s our speech that matters – the slides are just there to support us. The next time you give a speech, let your killer presentation help you to give a killer speech.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: If you have a lot of facts in your speech, do you think that you should put them on slides or just talk to them?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Communicator Blog is updated. P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Communicator Newsletter are now available. Subscribe now: Click Here!   Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As speakers we are all well aware of what it means to give a speech in a formal setting. These are the events where an audience has assembled, there is a stage, you take the stage, and everyone understand the importance of public speaking and listens to what you have to say. When it come to giving toasts there are similar settings. These can be at weddings and at formal company functions. Everyone has gathered and there is an expectation that there will be toasts given. However, it turns out that there is another type of setting for toasts: the informal setting. During these events often a group of people have gathered and the opportunity to give a toast just magically appears. How can a speaker be ready for these types of speeches?