Effective Use of
Powerpoint as a
1. Write a script.
O A little planning goes a long way. Most presentations are written in PowerPoint
(or some other presentation package) without any sort of rhyme or reason.
O That‘s bass-ackwards. Since the point of your slides is to illustrate and expand
what you are going to say to your audience. You should know what you intend
to say and then figure out how to visualize it. Unless you are an expert at
improvising, make sure you write out or at least outline your presentation
before trying to put together slides.
O And make sure your script follows good storytelling conventions: give it a
beginning, middle, and end; have a clear arc that builds towards some sort of
climax; make your audience appreciate each slide but be anxious to find out
what‘s next; and when possible, always leave ‗em wanting more.
2. One thing at a time, please.
O At any given moment, what should be on the screen is the thing you‘re
talking about. Our audience will almost instantly read every slide as soon
as it‘s displayed; if you have the next four points you plan to make up
there, they‘ll be three steps ahead of you, waiting for you to catch up
rather than listening with interest to the point you‘re making.
O Plan your presentation so just one new point is displayed at any given
moment. Bullet points can be revealed one at a time as you reach them.
Charts can be put on the next slide to be referenced when you get to the
data the chart displays. Your job as presenter is to control the flow of
information so that you and your audience stay in sync.
3. No paragraphs.
O Where most presentations fail is that their authors, convinced they are producing
some kind of stand-alone document, put everything they want to say onto their slides,
in great big chunky blocks of text.
O Congratulations. You‘ve just killed a roomful of people. Cause of death: terminal
O Your slides are the illustrations for your presentation, not the presentation itself. They
should underline and reinforce what you‘re saying as you give your presentation —
save the paragraphs of text for your script. PowerPoint and other presentation
software have functions to display notes onto the presenter‘s screen that do not get
sent to the projector, or you can use notecards, a separate word processor
document, or your memory. Just don‘t put it on the screen – and for goodness‘ sake,
if you do for some reason put it on the screen, don‘t stand with your back to your
audience and read it from the screen!
4. Pay attention to design.
O PowerPoint and other presentation packages offer all sorts of ways to add visual ―flash‖ to your slides:
fades, swipes, flashing text, and other annoyances are all too easy to insert with a few mouse clicks.
O Avoid the temptation to dress up your pages with cheesy effects and focus instead on simple design
O Use a sans serif font for body text. Sans serifs like Arial, Helvetica, or Calibri tend to be the easiest
to read on screens.
O Use decorative fonts only for slide headers, and then only if they’re easy to read. Decorative
fonts –calligraphy, German blackface, futuristic, psychotic handwriting, flowers, art nouveau, etc. – are
hard to read and should be reserved only for large headlines at the top of the page. Better yet, stick to
a classy serif font like Georgia or Baskerville.
O Put dark text on a light background. Again, this is easiest to read. If you must use a dark
background – for instance, if your company uses a standard template with a dark background – make
sure your text is quite light (white, cream, light grey, or pastels) and maybe bump the font size up two
or three notches.
O Align text left or right. Centered text is harder to read and looks amateurish. Line up all your text to a
right-hand or left-hand baseline – it will look better and be easier to follow.
O Avoid clutter. A headline, a few bullet points, maybe an image – anything more than that and you risk
losing your audience as they sort it all out.
5. Use images sparingly
O There are two schools of thought about images in presentations. Some say they add
visual interest and keep audiences engaged; others say images are an unnecessary
O Both arguments have some merit, so in this case the best option is to split the
difference: use images only when they add important information or make an abstract
point more concrete.
O While we‘re on the subject, absolutely do not use PowerPoint‘s built-in clipart.
Anything from Office 2003 and earlier has been seen by everyone in your audience a
thousand times – they‘ve become tired, used-up clichés, and I hopefully don‘t need to
tell you to avoid tired, used-up clichés in your presentations. Office 2007 and non-
Office programs have some clipart that isn‘t so familiar (though it will be, and soon)
but by now, the entire concept of clipart has about run its course – it just doesn‘t feel
fresh and new anymore.
6. Think outside the screen.
O Remember, the slides on the screen are only part
of the presentation – and not the main part. Even
though you‘re liable to be presenting in a darkened
room, give some thought to your own presentation
manner – how you hold yourself, what you wear,
how you move around the room. You are the focus
when you‘re presenting, no matter how interesting
your slides are.
7. Have a hook.
O Like the best writing, the best presentation shook their
audiences early and then reel them in. Open with
something surprising or intriguing, something that will get
your audience to sit up and take notice. The most powerful
hooks are often those that appeal directly to your
audience‘s emotions – offer them something awesome or, if
it‘s appropriate, scare the pants off of them. The rest of your
presentation, then, will be effectively your promise to make
the awesome thing happen, or the scary thing not happen.
8. Ask questions.
O Questions arouse interest, pique curiosity, and
engage audiences. So ask a lot of them. Build
tension by posing a question and letting your
audience stew a moment before moving to the next
slide with the answer. Quiz their knowledge and then
show them how little they know. If appropriate,
engage in a little question-and-answer with your
audience, with you asking the questions.
9. Modulate, modulate, modulate.
O Especially when you‘ve done a presentation before, it can
be easy to fall into a drone, going on and on and on and on
and on with only minimal changes to your inflection. Always
speak as if you were speaking to a friend, not as if you are
reading off of index cards (even if you are). If keeping up a
lively and personable tone of voice is difficult for you when
presenting, do a couple of practice run-throughs. If you still
can‘t get it right and presentations are a big part of your job,
take a public speaking course or join Toastmasters.
10. Break the rules.
O As with everything else, there are times when each of these
rules – or any other rule you know – won‘t apply. If you
know there‘s a good reason to break a rule, go ahead and
do it. Rule breaking is perfectly acceptable behavior – it‘s
ignoring the rules or breaking them because you just don‘t
know any better that leads to shoddy boring presentations
that lead to boredom, depression, psychopathic breaks,
and eventually death. And you don‘t want that, do you?
11. Plan your content first
O Many experts warned about the dangers of
planning your presentation in PowerPoint:
O So the most important recommendation is to
plan your content first. This recommendation
came up time and time again. In some cases,
it was the only recommendation that
12. Use a plain background and remove any
O Delete that powerpoint template. Powerpoint
templates come from the mindset that
PowerPoint slides are like documents and so
should be branded. Templates add clutter and
distract from the visual impact of a slide.
13. One idea per slide
O So now you have your plain background
instead of a cluttered and distracting
14. Support the headline with graphic
O Instead of bullets, support your points with
graphic evidence. This can include
photos, images, charts and diagrams.
15. You don’t always need a slide
O Not every point in your presentation needs a slide:
O What do you do when you‘re not showing a slide? You insert a plain
black slide into your slideshow.This is a simple concept, and yet it is
profound when you use it all the time. It‘s a game changer! Or maybe,
PowerPoint is not the most appropriate tool at that time in your
presentation.Just like no one person can meet all of your relationship
needs, no one tool can meet all of your presentation needs. I like to use
flip charts with or without PowerPoint; flip charts used to sketch out an
idea, get input from the audience or provide a group activity keep a
presentation lively. There‘s movement, there‘s interaction, there‘s
problem solving, and the activity is spontaneous, created on the spot.
16. Put detail in the handouts
O This was the item that was recommended the most
times! If you want to follow best practice, simply
printing out your PowerPoint slides to create a
handout is no longer an option. Here are some of the
O Well-designed slides are terrible handouts since they
lack the on-slide text necessary to form an
informative narrative. [Create] handouts that are
distributed after the presentation.
17Grab viewers' attention
O Creating slides that grab viewers‘ attention is not about
fitting as much as you can on the screen. It's about using
the space on your slides effectively. Don't crowd your
slides, and only include elements that contribute to the
points you want to make. When you use graphics on a
slide, choose images that serve a purpose (such as a chart
or diagram that displays a direct benefit of your idea).
Compare the slides that follow, for example.
18. Select or create your own theme.
O Themes are the evolution of design templates in PowerPoint, but they're also
much more than that. Themes were introduced in Microsoft Office 2007 to
help you easily create the right look for your presentations and to coordinate
all of your Microsoft Office documents almost instantly.
O A theme is a coordinated set of fonts, colors, and graphic effects that you can
apply to your entire document with just a click. The same themes are available
for your Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, Microsoft Word documents,
Microsoft Excel workbooks, and even your Microsoft Outlook email messages
(and, in Office 2010, your Microsoft Access database forms and reports), so
it's easy to create your own personal or business branding throughout all of
19. Use video and audio to convey your message more effectively.
O Dynamic content, such as a brief video that illustrates an important point, is a
great way to engage your audience. Using audio that helps convey your
message, like recorded narration (you can add this to slides when sending
your presentation to others to view), can also help keep your slides clean and
O In PowerPoint 2010, video you insert from your files is now embedded by
default, so you don't have to include multiple files when sharing your
presentation electronically. You can also customize your embedded videos
with easy-to-use tools, such as video trim, fades, and effects. And with
PowerPoint 2010, you can insert a video that you've uploaded to a website to
play directly in your presentation.
20. Use graphics to emphasize key points
O A well-chosen chart or diagram can often convey
much more to your audience than can boring
bulleted text. Fortunately, creating charts and
graphics has never been easier. In Office 2010 and
Office 2007, Office graphics coordinate
automatically with the active theme in your
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