Powerpoint is a much derided business tool, but you should underestimate it at your peril. There are other similar products available like Keynote and Prezi but they all essentially do the same thing. These tips apply to all of them and please note, used badly, they are all as terrible as each other.

‘Death by Powerpoint’ refers to the feeling you get when faced with slide after slide of boring, mind numbing information. People seem to think the more slides they produce for the meeting or presentation, the more value they bring to the table. NOT TRUE, and leads us to tip 1:

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One idea per slide: The simpler the idea the better. And preferably its an idea that advances the conversation with the others in your meeting.

Avoid text if you can, use pictures! A picture is better than a thousand words right? Well use them in your Powerpoint to tell your stories. Another plus are pictures that use the whole slide and aren’t bordered at all look brilliant.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 11:  Apple Senior VP ...

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – JUNE 11: Apple Senior VP of iPhone Software Scott Forstall demonstrates the new map application featured on iOS 6 during the keynote address (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

If you must use text, use as few words as possible. Aim for one word if you can! The more time people spend reading your slide, the less time they are spending listening to you. Think headlines, just to help you along.

As Guy Kawasaki will tell you, use big fonts. He thinks that the font size should be the age of the oldest person in the room! Not sure about that, but make it big and bold!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edEs4sjlmJY&w=560&h=315]

Actually, there are a ton of other good tips in this video, but the stuff on presentations starts ar 9 minutes 10 seconds. Make sure you watch it all though, its the best marketing video I’ve ever seen.

Remember the point of Powerpoint! It’s to help YOU remember where you are in the conversation, not be the conversation itself. I always think a good Powerpoint doesn’t make any sense unless presented by its author.

Keep it short. I always try to stick to the idea that the room can only keep its concentration for 20 minutes without a break, so try to aim for that long a presentation. The ability to concisely and efficiently make your point is a powerful one to have. If you’ve got that ability, flaunt it.

Finally, make it entertaining. Use pictures video audio. Be funny, light and informative. Think of the opposites of those words and avoid them at all costs! All the people I know that are regarded as great presenters are entertaining. Its more than half the battle.

Think of your presentation as a story. It’s a step by step journey to explain something or to sell something to your audience. Remember, if you are bored by it, they definitely will be, and if that’s the case you’ll lose your audience. Keep it simple, and keep it as short as you can. Your audience will thank you for it!

What about you? Do you have any great presentation tips you’d be willing to share? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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7 replies
  1. acedigitalcomms
    acedigitalcomms says:

    I love this post Tony! As a viewer, everything here is clear and almost obvious but when it comes to putting together a presentation it’s too easy to get carried away with what I want to say. This makes me focus on the Powerloint/Prezi whatever not being there as a reminder of what I want to say, it should illustrate what I do say. I will remember to think of my audience and follow these tips every time.

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Thanks Helen! Very nice of you to say so 🙂 it’s very easy to put the whole story into your presentation, and we often get confused between this aid to the conversation and a leave behind with full details in it
      The trick is to remember the presentation is for you, to help you stay on track and at a good pace I guess. Leave behinds have all the info, presentations the bare minimum, and as you say, even better, as an illustration of your story not the story itself
      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  2. Mike Bersin
    Mike Bersin says:

    Everything you say is so true, although with guilty start I realise I don’t always stick to it. My wife, who also presents but uses lots of props and no PP at all, tells me her audiences just love stories, the more the better; which endorses your point that PP is essentially your speaker notes where everyone can see them, unless you use it for images, audio and video. What if you have seven points to make, though? No more than 5 minutes per point?

  3. nrobins229
    nrobins229 says:

    You make some good points here. My suggestion is that pictures not just be pictures.. but visual imagery of all types. Infographics have become so popular because they visually condense complex info into an easy-to-digest graphic. Use that same mindset with Powerpoint slide presentations and the audience will probably pay more attention. There are websites that offer pre-designed PPT slide templates for those who aren’t so good at making their own images/charts/graphics.

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