August 3rd, 2009

PowerPoint: Going Beyond Bulleted Lists


Have you ever had to sit through one of those presentations that consisted of nothing more than slide after slide of bullet points? Or maybe a PowerPoint created by someone who was so proud of the fact that he learned how to change font styles and colors, create cheesy slide transitions, and embed sound and images, that he tries to do all of those things to the point of distraction?

Unfortunately, we’ve all sat through our share of bad PowerPoint presentations. Yet when used correctly, PowerPoint can be an effective way to communicate ideas, share data and transfer knowledge … all without boring your audience to tears.

In the online seminar Enhancing PowerPoint for the Online Classroom and Beyond, Paul J. Gibler, founder of CONNECTINGDOTS and a former lecturer with the University of Wisconsin system, provided tips to help faculty transform their presentations from boring to engaging.

The key, Gibler says, is to incorporate visual elements that enhance what is being said by showing contrast, flow, hierarchy, unity or proximity. And while some presenters make the mistake of overdesigning their slides, Gibler stresses the importance of whitespace.

His text guidelines include choosing a sans serif font like Arial, and then following the KILL (Keep It Large and Legible) and KISS (Keep It Short and Simple) principles. This means things like only one concept per slide, don’t use complete sentences unless it’s a quotation, and the 6×6 rule. The 6×6 rule says that on those occasions when you do have to use bullets on a slide, never use more than six bullets and each bullet should contain no more than six words. Some presenters follow a 4×4 rule.

In the second half of the presentation, Gibler demonstrated tools and techniques for getting your slides online and integrating them into learning management systems, as well as screen capture tools and a Slideshare application for adding audio narration to slide presentations.