How to Give a Great PowerPoint Presentation

Last Updated Aug 15, 2009 7:23 PM EDT

The Corner Office's most popular post - How to Give a Killer Presentation - said it best:
It's hard to imagine your career going anywhere unless you can deliver an effective presentation. Unfortunately, most of us are born without the presentation gene. I have no idea why, but for most professionals, presenting is a real struggle.
They stand there, like they're glued to the floor, with their 90-slide presentation with a dozen bullets and sub-bullets and a book of text on each slide. Then they complain that executives and salespeople make all the money.
For better or worse, most companies use PowerPoint, and in my experience, most managers and executives have no idea how to use effectively. It's just as important as present skills, and if you follow these tips, you'll wow your audience instead of confusing and boring them:
How to Give Great PowerPoint:
  • Don't overdo the slide template with graphics and all kinds of creative crap. Your slide template should do nothing but clearly and cleanly present your content, not detract or distract from it. A solid background with contrasting text and a small logo in the corner is all you need.
  • Keep your text crisp, brief, pithy, crystal clear; do not be wordy or verbose; I can't emphasize this enough. You want to be strong and hard hitting, not laborious and longwinded.
  • Make one key point per slide. If there are two key points, then there should be two slides. This is likely a big change for you, but it is important.
  • Have no more than six bullets per slide, preferably a lot less, and one line of as little text as possible per bullet; avoid sub-bullets entirely if you can.
  • Just capitalize the first letter of each title, bullet or phrase; left justify all text.
  • Bullets are not sentences; they can be phrases. Omit periods and needless words. For example: "We need to determine the most likely customer and product scenarios" becomes: "Determine likely customer / product scenarios".
  • Text should be a minimum 24 points for bullets (28 or 32, if possible), 36 points for the title which should fit on one line, two rarely if you must. Don't mix fonts, point sizes, or bullet types.
  • Use a master template and stick to it religiously. If you don't know how, learn. The time it takes you to learn how to use it will save you 10x later.
  • A picture really is worth a thousand words, but mix it up: a graph here, a picture there, a quote, whatever; it's all a nice change from slide after slide of bulleted text.
  • Animation's a nice touch, but don't go nuts with it; it can be distracting.
As a general rule, know your audience. You have a lot more content flexibility with a technical audience than a board of directors.
I'm sure everyone would love to hear your own PowerPoint tips, so fire away ...

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