PowerPoint secrets from Steve Jobs

Avoid “death by PowerPoint” by stealing presentation tips from the charismatic Apple CEO, Steve Jobs. Jobs is a gifted speaker, not necessarily because he was born with talent, but because he sticks to several strategies.

Carmine Gallo, communications coach and author of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, points out that Jobs uses presentation software as a tool to visually complement his stories.

“PowerPoint is a tool,” says Gallo. “Those who think it’s evil don’t know how to use it.”

For example, we know that information is more effectively delivered with pictures instead of words. So PowerPoint becomes a very effective tool for delivering new or abstract information.

Gallo explains, “When Jobs introduced the iPod in 2001, he said it would allow you to carry 1,000 songs in your pocket—the headline. And to show you just how small it was, he said, ‘iPod is the size of a deck of cards.’ It’s been years since I saw that presentation but I remember what he said. Why? Because the slide showed a deck of cards. Pictures trump words.”

Here are some techniques and guidelines to sharpen your message:

Don’t treat the slides as a script. For a 30-minute speech, aim for no more than 10 slides.

If the presentation must include a large web of information, create screens with a handful of navigation buttons that will take the speaker to different sections of material. This customizes the presentation.

Practice restraint. Strive for no more than six lines of type on a single slide. Some presentation experts recommend 15 words or fewer per slide.

Limit not just the number of fonts in the presentation but also the type sizes. A good range: three type sizes. If you’re sharing the presentation with other people, include the fonts by using the File/Save As dialog box.

Keep the colors from being distracting by using five or fewer.

Remember, a presentation isn’t an action movie. If you’re using transition effects, don’t use every one available. Make them consistent. One of the most effective techniques can be a “subliminal message.” Under Animation Effects, choose “flash once.”

Keep it down

To keep the size of the file low:

  • Don’t use a higher resolution than you need. For a Windows screen, that’s about 96 dots per inch (dpi). If you’re printing the slides, you’ll want at least 150 dpi.
  • Choose a smaller file format for graphics, such as JPEG rather than TIFF.
  • Ungroup and regroup objects such as graphics and embedded spreadsheets.
  • Don’t allow Fast Saves, which can inflate the file size.