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Give great presentations by avoiding these common PowerPoint mistakes

presentationSeminars and presentations can be powerful marketing tools. When your firm hosts an informational seminar, you fill the room with high-value leads – people who have willfully expressed interest in your areas of practice. Since you have a limited amount of time with your audience, you need to provide genuinely helpful materials. And you must make sure your presentation is memorable.

PowerPoint can be a dangerous thing. It does have features that, if used appropriately, can help create effective supporting slides. But, it is merely a tool, and like all tools, it can be used for good or bad, to inform or to confuse. People sit through far to many boring presentations throughout the course of a professional lifetime. Do not force them to endure another. Avoid some of these most common PowerPoint mistakes:

Too much text. People think and learn visually. Pictures can often provoke a memory in a way that listening or reading cannot. Take some time to think about how your firm can demonstrate the key points of your seminar with interesting photography or illustration instead of list after bulleted list. If you give people too much to read at the same time they are trying to listen, they are not going to remember what they saw or what you said.

Wrong font or font size. Your choice of font affects your presentation in many ways. Too many fonts within one presentation is distracting and makes it more difficult for people to digest information. All slides will need to be readable at a distance and the type size must be large enough for everyone to see. Using large type also prevents you from putting too much information on each slide. There simply won't be room. In addition, remember that sans serif fonts, like Arial, are easiest on the eyes, while script or display fonts can be difficult to read.

Bad color choices. Color choices affect the feel of the presentation as well as the readability of the text. Pick one or two colors and use only those throughout all slides. Having one main color and a complementary or contrasting color is a good rule of thumb. Do not pick colors that yell at your audience. You want them to be comfortable while they are looking at the slides. Avoid placing colored text on a differently colored or black background. Colors that have similar levels of saturation, even if they are different, are difficult to read when grouped together or placed on top of each other.

Reading your slides. Your audience can read the words on a slide much more quickly than you can read it out loud. They will reach the end before you do, tune you out and then turn to thoughts of what to have for dinner or what to focus on in their next workout. In addition, creating slides that are just a rehashing of your full presentation does not give you the opportunity to make the necessary visual impression.

Inconsistent layout. Consistency in your layout involves using limited colors and fonts as well as having the same graphic styles throughout all slides. Perhaps your graphics are primarily illustration rather than photo based. Or, maybe you have one element that appears in the same place on all pages like a top or side bar. You may want to create a simple slide template and use that as the background for all of your slides. This should be something as subtle as a small logo in the bottom corner. Please, no patterns or any other graphics that will draw attention away from your actual materials.

Failure to follow-up. Admittedly, this is not exactly a PowerPoint problem, but it is a common mistake of seminar presenters. Combining a perk for attendees with a method for collecting contact information is particularly effective. Give atendees an incentive to visit your website, like a free download of the seminar if they provide their name and email address. (You do not have to give away the whole thing, but you could offer a summary or select slides.) Hand out a special seminar code and tell them they can use it on your website to download a free ebook or practice area guide.When setting up the seminar, you should have required RSVPs. At the seminar, make sure people check in. This way you have two lists with which to follow-up.

Presentations are a great way to introduce your firm to a high-value audience. Make sure you do not waste the opportunity. Give people a reason to remember you.