I was asked to come up with tips on making a good PowerPoint presentation. Being a public speaker, I thought this was a great blog topic with random points I feel are important for a great presentation. The focus of the presentation is not PowerPoint, you should be able to give the presentation without any visual aids. Here are 15 quick tips I came up with to consider.

Slides are not the focus of the presentation, it is you and your message. The slides are complimentary and can help reinforce the message.

  • There should be minimal to no reading (text) on slides. Powerful imagery to compliment presentation. E.g. a photo, a big number, a pie chart. The explanation is throughout the presentation. Don’t want people concentrating on “reading/looking” at the slides.
  • Make sure any images are not cheesy. Use professional stock images or real photos.
  • Don’t use transitions. That is a thing of the past (or was it ever in style?). No spins. No dissolves. Just display the slide.
  • Avoid sound effects unless you know what you are doing and it works. Generally it is a #fail.
  • Know the audience and adapt. The message needs to be tailored to them.
  • People LOVE stories. Make it personal to reinforce or explain a concept.
  • Make use of color. People hate boring looking slides. Make them vivid or contrasting.
  • Keep the number of slides small. Don’t have many. People don’t want to feel like the presentation is never going to end.
  • Leave time for Q&A at the end. Perhaps even put “Q&A” on the last slide perhaps with your contact information if they have further questions they want to ask offline.
  • Make any text legible. Use a large enough font. Don’t make it small. It needs to be big and bold. Focus on under 6 words. Even a single word.
  • Engage the audience. Ask them questions. Take a poll. Have a contest. Walk around the crowd. Don’t stand at the podium. Avoid bad habits. Speak to them. Make eye contact. Project your voice. Speak clearly. Don’t be monotonous.
  • Don’t hand out printouts of your slides. They don’t mean anything without you presenting.
  • Use interesting typography. Default fonts are boring. But make sure it is very legible, bold, easy to read.
  • Have other people proof your slides. Check for grammar/typos, these stick out like a sore thumb. Make sure it all flows.
26 Comments
  1. I should add to this, since I’m both a tech writer and a (graphic/web) designer, that you could also… er… avoid PowerPoint. Like the plague. Let me give a tip: have you seen “any of those awesome images with beautiful titles/text inside”? Well, how much of a “graphic designer” do you have to be just to put some text in a beautiful image?

    So… If you don’t need charts in your presentation, just images and text, nstead of creating it in PowerPoint, load up a graphics app and just do this:

    Step 1
    Go to some stock photography site. Search Google for one. There, before using its search function to find any images, make sure to check that you can use them freely (if you aren’t prepared to pay for them). Then, search, find and save some to your HDD. You know how to do that, right?

    Step 2
    Rename them using numbers, so that you’ll have them in a proper order in your folder. Name the first one you’d like to be displayed “001.jpg”, the fifth one “005.jpg” or, if you really-really want to use names, do it like “003_another_image.jpg”, “007_photo_of_the_famous_agent.png” and so on. Always start with the number so that you’ll be able to have them “alphabetically” ordered (your PCs file system puts numbers before letters and in the proper order, so… abuse it 🙂

    Step 3
    Load each one in a graphics editing app. Like Photoshop. No, you don’t have to “KNOW” Photoshop to do what we’ll do: just drag’n’drop each one in Photoshop or some similar app (like GIMP).

    Step 4
    Select the text tool. “It’s the one with the `T` in the column or row with a bunch of icons in your photo editing app” (by default, on the left in Photoshop). Click somewhere in your image. Write whatever you like – “this is our awesome product”. Notice that someplace, somewhere in your graphics app, some “fields” will have changed to display parameters of the tool you’re using – the TEXT tool. Notice that one is “points”. Or “size”. Or something like that. Change it and look at what it does.

    Step 5
    Change from the TEXT tool to the MOVE tool to, well, yeah, move stuff around. Move your text where you want it in your picture. Move the sucker, I say! Do it! 🙂
    If you want to re-edit it, first re-select the text tool and click on it. Then edit however much you like. Edit it to the ground. Then change tools, re-move. It’s as simple as that.
    Notice that while editing you can also change the text’s color. By picking a color. That means “click on a color, any color, in the color palette window that’s displayed somewhere on your screen” (on the right by default in Photoshop). You can also do it by clicking on the “primary”, the “front” color set in the app. That’s usually found attached to some part of the tools palette (by default, on the bottom of the left toolbar in Photoshop). Just select text-change color. Re-do it. Then re-edit. Then re-move. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat.

    Step 6
    Take a step back. Look at what you did. Check that your text doesn’t “fall on your images subject”. If you’re talking about a toaster, don’t put your text where the toaster is in your image. Also try to find images where the toaster, or anything that happens to be your toaster, isn’t displayed smack-center in them, but near the left, right, top, center. That way you’ll have more “room” in your image to add your text there.

    Step 7
    Save each image. If you’re asked pick “JPG” and set the “quality” setting to 99% – you care more about clarity in your images than disk space. If not, reduce it. Notice that in some apps the same setting is called “compression” and works the other way around: the more the compression, the less the file’s size, but with progressively worse quality.

    Done. No PowerPoint. “Pro-like” presentation. For “playing it” just open the images in sequence in any image viewer. Even the default Media Player in any version of Windows should be able to display them.

    Extra tips:

    * If you feel restricted by the above ’cause “you can’t add enough text” your presentation would suck anyway. And that’s ’cause if you think anyone would feel happy reading paragraphs of text projected on a wall you’re gravely mistaken. Drive your point home with as less words as possible. Not by trying to overexplain why you, your services and your products are first cousins of Awesomus Maximus.

    * Have you seen Apple’s products? Their boxes? The beautiful simplicity in their design? That’s why I’m saying “use images with 3-10 words in each for your presentation”. It’s simple. It can be elegant, if you don’t overemphasize the text. Your image is your priority. If you need to add more text to something, don’t add it in, on or around an image: add it on its own page. That’s ’cause, if you’re (still) reading this, you’re probably NOT a designer, and as such, 7 out of 10 things you’d try would suck. Unfortunately, PowerPoint itself can’t help (much) with that. So, why take your chances and create something others would feel bad trying to read/watch/whatever, when you could follow a more simple way with guaranteed beautiful results?

    * To look uber-pro, use a custom font. Not something fancy or “calligraphic”, just a font like the Roboto one Google uses in its Android operating system.

    • Thanks for the great tips. I feel it is very important to have an professional looking presentation. The next time I do a presentation I will definitely try this.

    • +1 for the good tips on powerpoint ducklord. I agree with your custom font tip, it gives a sense of uniqueness you don’t get from using “comic sans” or “impact”.

      Regarding step 7, there are batch-processing tools for reducing image size in an optimized way. It may pay to do all images in full-size, then optimize them in bulk.

    • Nice guide, mate! I’m a student and I find myself using PowerPoint for my presentations, I will try to use your method from now on! I also recommend using Dafont for your font needs, they have all sorts of categories for fonts. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for these extra tips! Even though I love colorful and funny presentations, you really need to be smart and know where to use that type of presentations, as you’ve said, when you’re trying to give a good image for yourself, you need to stick to that idea and make things simpler. Sometimes less is more.

  2. Oh man, this reminds me of my high school and community college days using PowerPoint. I think I vaguely recall an assignment that required using at least 2 or 3 transitions. Yes, you did read that. No, no, try not to punch your computer. I think transitions can be used tastefully, but glittery effects aren’t appropriate for professional settings.

    Several years ago I somehow got on a Google’ing spree about how people hate PowerPoint. It seemed like the biggest complaint was how people packed all of their information into the presentation, instead of using it as an outline, or a means of stating the main points. Upon reflection, this seems like a valid critique. PowerPoint presentations are meant to make it easier to remember the associated speech or lecture. If the entire speech is there, in text form, then you’ve added nothing useful.

  3. Some great tips here David, thanks! I have attended numerous boring and uninspiring presentations myself. You are right – audio always fails! It makes the presenter look unprepared when this happens, so it’s safer just to avoid it altogether.

  4. I love this, and I wish my professors and colleagues could read this! I can’t tell you how many times they would present a PowerPoint Presentation only for the slides to be boring black and white and filled with paragraphs upon paragraphs. Boring! I’d take the cheesy PowerPoint Presentations over the boring ones any day. I have to admit, I am guilty of using transitions, but I thought they were still cool, lol. I guess not…

    • Yeah Mackmax that’s a valid point. Even a lot of professors don’t even know how to use PowerPoint. I remember once I did a presentation with sound and I was getting amazed looks from the lecturer.

    • Same here! I have watched so many bad power point presentations in my life, and I will surely get to experience even more of those 😛 I wish more people would read this article, it has so many great tips! There is nothing I dislike more than power point presentations that seem endless and have so much text! NO ONE even reads that! So boring!

  5. I agree with the fonts part strongly. People still use Times New Roman and that font looks bad because it’s overused. I’ve seen a presentation using Comic Sans MS and having lots of text and it looked ugly. http://www.google.com/fonts/ has some beautiful and simple fonts which look amazing on presentations and they can be obtained for free. Besides, in my opinion, the ‘fade’ transition is better than the other transition effects and far better than having none at all.

  6. This is super useful if you’re required to use powerpoint, but I think using something like emaze online is much quicker and looks more professional, perfect for quick university/college projects.

  7. Thanks for this informative article. I have bombed so many power point presentations in my days, and now I feel I could fix all those problems. I love the idea of power point but could never get into it as I found it pretty difficult. I loved reading your tips and can’t wait to try some of them out! 🙂

  8. These are all great tips for someone who isn’t well versed in PowerPoint, like me…My other issue I guess is to always be looking at the audience and to speak in a loud and clear enough voice. But definitely, I see many other people reading off their slides or their cue cards sometimes with not enough eye contact and those…those presentations just don’t come across as being very good.

  9. I agree with “engaging the audience”. There is nothing worse than a dead Powerpoint presentation. I feel pity for a presenter that does not involve or interact with the audience at all. At least act like you want to be presenting!

  10. These are pretty sound tips all around. I agree with you on the ‘no sound’ thing. Every time I put on a sound effect on my presentations it always feels tacky. Keeping the viewers’ attention is important but adding sound is just cheap and annoying. I always make reading minimal in my presentations as well, and I always take care to let the words ‘pop out’ so that they’ll be noticed.

  11. Awesome tips! I have never had to create my own power point presentation, but I know how important it is to be concise and clear when giving a speech or presentation in general. I use a lot mind maps and they always have to be so colorful, clear, concise and have a lot vivid images… but very little text. I think a successful power point presentation should be like that too. Excellent article 🙂

  12. I’m going to make use of this quick tip. I feel they will be useful, even if my presentations are not going to be about tech. I remember attending a UX/UI design presentation that the presenter was not present during the presentation, which gave me some hope that I do not need to be cloning myself to be able to do online presentations. In my presentations, I usually set “make people remember my presentation the right way” as one of the main goals. Sometimes I also need to be able to look at the chains of actions that go into my presentation materials long before presentation time.

  13. Very good points. Most seem to forget that large amounts of text is usually unreadable to the people in the back of a room. PowerPoint is just supposed to be an aide with your presentation, not the presentation in whole. People pay better attention when you are being personable and not shoving text filled slides down their throat. Its best to remember K.I.S.S when using PowerPoint- Keep it simple, stupid. 🙂

  14. You have just shown me how much I had forgotten and how many bad habits I have fallen into over the years, I used to get good marks for presentation at college and now I cannot think of a “do not” I do not do! One gets complacent and it is so easy just to print off slides. Usually these days I use power point in a sermon and the last thing you want to be is boring in a sermon, After all, they have a reputation for being so.

    I shall be returning to your tips next time I make a presentation in order to remind myself of good habits!

  15. I can’t stress how important it is to practice your presentation before you give it. Nothing is more cringe worthy than someone who doesn’t have a prepared presentation.

  16. Good points, going to save this one for later, when I’m making powerpoint presentation:)

  17. That’s awesome, I think I will have to do a lot of PowerPoint presentations when I go to college later on this year, for software engineering course. I also think it’s good to get out of the ordinary checklist that they do for PowerPoint, really good article that presents it well.

  18. Awesome. I think they are great tips, I know I would of had to use them especially in my upcoming college lectures. I also think it’s great for homework and a good presentation for an interview or proposal of a plan and a job presentation.

  19. I wonder if screen casting would change the playing field a bit: no longer have to worry about text being visible from the front as the attendees can see the slides as they show up on their device.
    But then you’d have a room full of people looking down at their iPads and maybe not fully engaged with your speech.
    Maybe limiting the casting to the moments you’re demoing screen shots is a good mix.
    I just like the idea of not being stared at all the time, I’m not a confident public speaker.

  20. Those are great tips, thanks for sharing! I’m a university student and presentations are a relatively common thing for me, and I have learned some of these tips in the worst way, I guess… at the beginning I used to use a lot of text in the presentation and people got bored so easily, it was extremely frustrating! But I have already learned to use concepts only and good images related to that concept, that way it’s easier for both parts, for them and for me, it’s easy for me to explain and they don’t get that bored.

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