7 Tips for Effective PowerPoint

The word "PowerPoint" elicits groans from those who have to create presentations and those who have to sit through them. Just say "no" to the torture, and follow these seven tidbits of advice to keep your audience responsive.

1. Create simple, good-looking slides branded with your company colors and logo. We design custom templates and themes, which make it easy to keep a consistent, quality look. The basics are a high-impact opening title slide, and a secondary slide template with lots of space for adding content. A theme keeps fonts, colors and sizes consistent – having a theme can save you hours of work.

2. Limit the number of slides. The old rule of 12 maximum slides has grown, but that's not to say your audience will be pleased when you've clicked on slide number 21 – with no end in sight.
When I need to get some sleep, I use PowerPoint.
3. Don't cram your content. Use no more than 6 bullet points into one slide and use a fairly large font size. Divide up your content! Or better yet, slash. Cut all non-essential bullet points, phrases and words. Keep things short on the slides, and fill in with your narrative (see #6 below) – your audience will like you so much better. Here's a great example of a "less is more" presentation.

4. Use images instead of text to illustrate a concept. You know that clip art mountain climber? We've all seen him and we're sick of him. Avoid PowerPoint clip art and intead find dynamic images that dovetail with the content. Don't make people ask themselves, "What the heck is that doing there?"

5. Know your topic. If you've mastered your material, your confidence will be evident in your delivery. You'll be calmer, less repetitive, and less likely to mix up your slides.

6. Do you read the slides during your presentation? <yawn> The slide text should merely cue your narrative  – one that adds new information. Rehearse, then rehearse some more. Be interesting. Be entertaining. Most of us aren't born with a natural talent for public speaking, but you can get better at it, and even excel, with practice.

7. Plan ahead. Most PowerPoint mistakes – including being boring – are made because the work was done in a hurry. Plan your slides on paper first (this low-tech approach saves tons of time), and practice, practice! Your muscle memory will take over during the presentation and you'll glide right through. Here's another great check-list from How Good Is Your Presentation?