The most common pitfall when designing presentations is putting too much text on the slides. As we discussed in a previous post, visual slides are better than slides overloaded with text. Lots of text leads to an excessive amount of thinking by your audience as they constantly switch back and forth between reading and listening. This cognitive overload makes it hard for people to understand and remember your message.
I believe a large part of the reason so many people build slides this way is that they don’t know any other way and don’t invest the time to learn. Fortunately, I have a great “insider” tip that can rescue you and your slides from the typical “death by PowerPoint’ scenario–and do it quickly.
Let’s take a look at a recent example I was called in to lend a last minute hand on. Here you can see what the original slides looked like. (The logo, names and colors have been changed to protect the innocent.)
Holy smokes! This avalanche of text this is not going to get the kind of attention these presenters want.
The secret for significantly improving these slides quickly and easily is SmartArt. PowerPoint’s SmartArt feature can turn boring bullet points into a more professional-looking visual design in just a few clicks.
I’ll use this Agenda slide to illustrate.
If you don’t want to lose all of the original text, you can copy and paste it into the Notes area. Or if you have a lot of details you want people to walk away with, you should consider creating a separate handout,.
The first step is reducing the amount of text to the bare minimum. As you can see, I’ve cut anything that didn’t add value and combined a couple of similar topics to arrive at this new version. Even this simple step is a big improvement. Doesn’t it already look and feel much better?
Now for the coup de grace — upgrading the text into a graphical illustration by using SmartArt.
Convert slide text to a SmartArt graphic
All you have to do is select the placeholder containing the text that you want to convert. Then click the Convert to SmartArt button on the Home tab.This brings you into the Smart Art gallery where you can pick the layout you want and presto! Goodbye text. Hello graphics.
Here are a few examples offered up to replace the bullet list text. Any one of these layouts is a huge improvement over what we started with. And the great thing is how fast and easy it was.
There you go! Now you impress your audience (and your boss) with great looking slides that stand out from the crowd without spending extra hours you don’t have doing it.