Eleven Tricks for Effective PowerPoint Presentations


It seems like everyone is using PowerPoint and other presentation software these days. Where schoolchildren used to write reports on things, now they create a presentation instead. Salesmen use presentations to show off their products’ benefits, and of course trainers use them to train their learners. Even with so many people using PowerPoint presentations, it’s amazing how few people can put a really good presentation together. Here are 11 points on how to make your presentations stand out.

1. Avoid excessive information – Make sure that the information which is on the presentation is what needs to be there; nothing more. Don’t try and impress people with the amount of information you can put on a slide, use the information there to get people’s attention, so that they will want to have their questions answered.

2. Keep it readable – Don’t allow things to get so small that people will have a hard time reading them. Not everyone has perfect eyesight. You should never have any text that’s smaller than 24 point or lines that are less than 2 point in thickness. That keeps everything visible and easy on the eyes.

3. Let your pictures tell your story – Pictures are an important part of any presentation. They should be clear, relevant and big. People will get more out of your presentation if you use pictures and narrate the information, than they will if you put a bunch of information on a slide. Too much information, and they won’t read it.

4. Keep a consistent style – This is a visual media we’re talking about here. Picture style, text style, colors and sizes are all part of creating that visual image. Consistency ties everything together in a way that will help carry the story from one slide to the next. Lack of consistency is a good way to lose people’s attention and have them lose track of what they’re learning.

5. Easy on the special effects – Some people seem to think that every picture, word and symbol needs to be done with special effects. You spend 30 seconds looking at things bounce, spin and fly across the screen, and still don’t know what any of it is. Simple transitions and animations to being things in are best. If you must use a drastic animation, do so sparingly, on something that you really need to bring attention to.

6. Use background music – Background music adds a lot of professionalism to the presentation. Just like in the cinema, background music can help set the tone for the message you’re trying to get across to the viewer. Don’t overdo it though; you don’t want to have to yell over the music. Something soft, that doesn’t distract, is best.

7. Don’t let them get ahead of you – If there are several points being made on a slide, animate them so that they come in one at a time. That way, your viewers won’t be reading ahead and wondering what that next point is about. You want them to stay with you.

8. Make your first animation come in with the slide – PowerPoint’s animation feature allows you to select when the animation comes in. Your first point, graphic or animation should start with the slide transition, so that people aren’t sitting there looking at a blank slide. Additional points can come in on mouse clicks.

9. Avoid “timed presentations” – Unless a presentation is fully automatic, intended for the user to see it by themselves, don’t have your animations run by the clock. Invariably, you’ll need to answer a question or add more information, and you won’t have time to do so.

10. Keep it relevant – You want your audience to be looking at the presentation, not out the window. Keep the information relevant to their needs, whether or not it is to your needs. You are going to accomplish a whole lot more if you can keep their attention than you ever will by boring them to death with details.

11. Keep backgrounds simple – You don’t want your background to distract the viewer from the information in the foreground. A simple background is much more effective than a fancy one. Dark colors allow you to use light letters, making for a more visible presentation, especially in a brightly lit room.