A Guide To Effective Church Presentations

I originally wrote this article on my personal blog in 2008, but sadly the presentations I see today are still as bad as those I saw in 2008. So I've decided to re-post it here in its entirety in the hopes that folks will pass it on to those who are often presenting in church in the hopes of improving their presentations.

So, you've been tasked with showing a presentation on mission work in a certain country, and you want to use LibreOffice Impress or Microsoft PowerPoint. How do you go about making an effective presentation?

For some reason, most presentations given in church are long, mostly boring, and poorly done. In this article I'd like to highlight a few things that should help make your presentation short, effective, and painless to your audience.

Rule of 5s

The first and most important thing you can do with your presentation is follow the rule of 5s. It looks like this:

  • No more than 5 minutes total presentation time
  • No more than 5 slides in total
  • No more than 5 pictures per slide
  • No more than 5 bullets per slide
  • No more than 5 words per bullet

Your presentation is supposed to be a summary of what you're saying, not the other way round (as seems to be the case most of the time). People cannot read all the little facts and details on each slide, there isn't enough time. What's the point of talking if your presentation contains all the details? Keeping the number of items down to 5 or less ensures that your presentation becomes a summary, rather than an essay. A 5 minute presentation gives you 5 minutes to pray about it afterward, and means that you don't delay a service for more than 10 minutes in total.

Colour Schemes

It's important to keep in mind that the colours that appear on the screen and the colours of your computer's monitor are different. Colours on your monitor are a lot brighter and contrasting than those projected onto the screen. With this in mind, you need to make sure that the colour scheme you choose works on the faded-looking screen.

The best colours to use are black for a background and white for text. Any fairly dark colour (like navy blue, for instance) generally works well as a background, although shades of green and red usually don't work as well as blue. Foreground colours should be bright, like white or a very bright yellow, with almost-white colours being the best. Once again, reds and greens don't work as well as blues and yellows.

Pictures & Graphics

People love to spruce up their presentations with pictures and little graphics. Unfortunately these never seem to work as well as intended. As dealt with in my previous point, when it comes to colours, contrasting colours are the best. Choose pictures with very bright and well-defined colours. Dark pictures just don't work.

Little graphics all over the place to make a presentation seem more "fun" tend to distract people's eyes from reading the text, which is where you actually want their attention, so rather leave them out.

While a couple of pages of pictures are nice to see, they leave the person doing the presenting with nothing to say apart from "um, there's a picture of ..." This is really silly most of the time, as presenters end up telling their audience what they can see for themselves. Rather place a few strategic pictures on the pages with your bullets, where they can help to increase the impact of your points.

Sounds & Videos

From time to time folks giving presentations at our church have come with a presentation with background music. There are two problems with this: firstly, we use LibreOffice Impress which doesn't support background music; and secondly, we don't have an audio cable from the PC to the sound system. Often these folks use the music to place emphasis on various points of their presentation, and are now left without that added emphasis. For this reason I recommend leaving off the music, your presentation should not rely on music to add emphasis.

Videos also don't work, for the same reasons as those above: applications that don't support inline video, and no audio cables from the PC to the sound system. They also bloat the presentation due to their size, and can affect the speed of the application when showing the presentation. Rather leave them out.

While sound and video often gives your presentation extra pizaz and emphasis, it often comes at a cost, which decreases the overall effectiveness of your presentation.

Showing Your Presentation

This is the most important section of your presentation, the part that governs how quickly people will forget it. A well thought out and well presented presentation will linger in people's minds.

When showing your presentation have a transcript of what you're going to say. This should actually be your master document, which you summarise into a presentation. Have a section for each slide in your presentation, and a bullet point for each bullet point on each slide.

Your bullet points, however, should be longer than those in your presentation, but probably no longer than about 3 sentences each. You want to be short and to the point with each bullet. Your congregation is a bit like a gold fish, they tend to have an attention span of about 30 seconds. Waffle on for 5 minutes about one point and you've lost them.

If you find that you have too many points, examine them all and choose those that are most relevant to the end goal of your presentation. For example, knowing the population of a country is irrelevant to praying for issues in that country.

Group your points per slide with each slide having a single overall theme.

Give a copy of your transcription to the person operating your presentation if it isn't you, so that they can see when and where to move on to the next slide. Having to signal the operator with a nod of the head or say, "Next slide please" is not very professional.

Another way to look more professional is to not look at the screen. Too many folks look at the presentation on the screen while they're presenting, and it looks like they don't know what they want to say and that they aren't well prepared.

Remembering Your Audience

I'm not talking about the congregation here, I'm talking about the Almighty Audience, God. Remember that you're doing this for Him, not for the folks in front of you, or for yourself. Too many times I see folks give God what they deem is "good enough." However, God demands our best effort, so "good enough" is not good enough for Him. Strive to have a simple (but not simplistic) and professional presentation.

References

One of the people renown for his amazing and effective presentations is Apple Computers' Steve Jobs. A number of people have analysed Steve Jobs' style and tried to point out what makes his presentations so good. Here are a couple of those analyses:

[ Image Credit: Ugandan Sunset by US Army ]


Comments

comments powered by Disqus