Make Your PowerPoint Presentations Effective: Top Tips

PowerPoint has a “slide master” feature that can be used to create template designs that are both simple and consistent. There is nothing wrong with varying the content of your presentations e.g. using a mixture of two columns of text, bullet point lists, and slides with text and/or images. However, you should be consistent in the way you use other features such as backgrounds, color schemes, and fonts.

Keep the word count on each slide simple and limited

Make optimum use of key words and phrases, and make sure the information you include is relevant and essential. 

Use capital letters and punctuation sparingly. Your slides will be more appealing and legible if you leave some blank space.  

It is best when the color of the foreground text contrasts clearly with the background. In fact, it is best to use light-colored text on a darker background. Legibility is reduced when backgrounds are multi-colored or patterned.     

Try to avoid using features like fly-ins and other fancy transitions. While features like these can at first seem impressive, they can actually become a distraction and get dated very quickly.  

It is not a good idea to overuse special effects like sound and animation. These can seem gimmicky and take away from a presentation’s credibility. 

The best policy is to focus on complementing and reinforcing your message with high-quality images. Check that images retain their resolution and impact when you project them onto a large screen. 

When using builds – i.e. the appearance of text lines when the mouse is clicked – make sure, your content appears in a simple and consistent fashion. The best option is to have text coming in from the top or the left. Try to restrict your use of “builds” to those times when this technique is needed to reinforce a point because, otherwise, they can slow a presentation down.  

Keep slides to a limited number. You are more likely to leave your audience behind if you keep “flipping” to the next screen. One slide each minute is a good rule to adhere to. 

Learn the art of navigating through your slides in a non-linear manner

There is a feature in PowerPoint that allows you flip backwards and forwards without needing to go through all the in-between slides.

Practice going backwards and forwards in your presentation so that you know how to do it. Members of an audience frequently want to return to previous slides. 

Where possible, run your presentation on the screen you will be using for real. Check that slides are legible from the back of the room/hall. Make sure all text and graphics are sufficiently large to be readable without seeming “loud.”    

Make sure you have a backup plan in case of technical glitches. Do not forget that you cannot show special effects on transparencies.

Try a practice run with a person who is unfamiliar with your presentation. Encourage them to give genuine feedback on all aspects, e.g., content and appearance.  

Avoid reading from your PowerPoint slides. Remember, your presentation is for the benefit of your audience, not yours.  

Speak to your audience, not to the screen. Too many people face their presentation and not the audience. 

Avoid being apologetic for any aspect of your presentation. If something might be difficult to understand or read, discard it.  

Where it is possible, run your slides from your hard drive. Other media can be slower.