6 'Foolproof' Presentation Proofing Techniques

Nothing is more embarrassing than presenting in front of a group of clients/peers/co-workers, making what you think is a stellar presentation, only to discover a major typo that suddenly appears during your talk. Beyond the possibility of losing credibility, your audience may fixate on the error rather than hearing your message.
After crafting a presentation, you’ll want to proof your document to check for errors. But, familiarity with the information can often blind you from noticing typos and mistakes.
Listed below are six techniques to help you become more objective when proofing your work so you can easily catch those errors that can quickly deflate a great PowerPoint presentation.

Six ‘Foolproof’ Proofing Techniques for PowerPoint Presentations:

1. Spell-check

Always begin a proofing session by using the spell-check feature. Unfortunately, too many people rely on this as their one and only proofing method—but it is not a magic bullet. Spell-check is a great first step, but it will not find every error.
Spell-check may make mistakes when it encounters:

  • Homonyms — words that sound the same but have different meanings, such as to, too, two or your and you’re. In some instances it will catch these errors, but it can miss others.
  • Names and addresses that are not in the computer’s dictionary. It may mark these as incorrect, but it’s up to you to ensure you have the correct spelling.
  • Omitted words — words that were left out but are needed in order to complete a sentence.
  • Spacing errors — the dreaded (or loved) double space.
2. Find and Replace

Most content editing programs have a Find and Replace function that will search your document for a keyword and allow you to replace it with something else. This can be a huge time-saver if you know your problem phrases. Maybe your company’s style guide says to use “email” but some of your content creators type “e-mail” out of habit, or you want to be consistent in formatting abbreviations like “U.S.” To quickly correct these, you can find all instances of incorrect spellings (e-mail, US, etc.) and replace them with the correct ones.
This tool is especially helpful with double spaces. One extra space between words may not be noticeable on your computer screen, but when projected onto a 12 foot screen multiple spaces could quickly sabotage an otherwise clean and professional presentation.
How to Use ‘Find and Replace’ in PowerPoint 2013, 2016 and Office 365 PowerPoint:

  • On the Home tab, in the Editing section (far right), click Replace.
  • In the Find what: box, type in your problem phrase (two spaces, for example). In the Replace with: box, type in the correct phrase (one space).
  • Click Find Next. This will allow you to review each instance of the problem phrase before you correct it. Click Replace to change the phrase or Find Next to leave it and go to the next instance. Repeat the above procedure until you’ve completed the document.

Standard PowerPoint slide
Find and replace in PowerPoint

3. Fresh Eyes

Peer editing, when you have someone else proof your work for you, is a highly-recommended process. It is sometimes impossible for you to see mistakes after working on a document extensively—you know the content too well. The old cliché, “You can’t see the forest for the trees” refers to this kind of familiar blindness. An objective third person is more emotionally detached and can help you see errors and room for improvement better than you can.
Things to look for:

  • Spelling of names and addresses
  • Numbers, symbols (= > %) and capitalization errors
  • Spacing and punctuation errors
  • Overall meaning of the message and logical flow

If it’s impossible to have someone else proof for you, then following the remaining rules will help you catch those seemingly-invisible errors.

4. Read Backwards

Start at the bottom of your text and read each word individually to check for spelling and punctuation. In a presentation deck, start with the very last slide and work your way toward the beginning. This can quickly get your mind unhooked from “auto mode” that often projects what you want to see, versus what is actually on the slide.

5. Make It Black and White

Often very colorful pictures and layouts can prevent you from seeing your work clearly. By simply changing the view of your presentation from color to greyscale (black and white), you can make errors more visible to your critical eye.
Standard PowerPoint slide

PowerPoint slide in grayscale
6. Step Away

Finally, the tried and true advice to “sleep on it” is, well, tried and it’s true. If you don’t have time to wait until tomorrow, take a short break and do something else for at least 2-3 hours—then return to the document to start another proofing session. Often, sleeping on it or at least ‘disconnecting’ from the proofing/editing process for a period of time can help you see things more clearly.
So there you have it, the six foolproof proofing methods to insure your next presentation is stellar!

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