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PowerPoint Pointers - a few do's and don'ts to help you with your presentation
Graham Hawkes
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PowerPoint Pointers - a few do's and don'ts to help you with your presentation

PowerPoint is a great tool for helping you with presentations.  But I see many speakers get carried away to the point where the slides are the entire presentation, rather than a tool to assist and complement it.  This leads to there being too many slides, and in many cases the whole text of the presentation ends up on screen.  This is not only boring but also an insult to the audience, who have to suffer reading the text whilst it is being read – mostly with the speaker’s back to those who have come to listen.


I have seen nervous and infrequent speakers, and accomplished speakers break some simple rules which totally ruin the impact of their speech.   PowerPoint can be a real advantage to you if you just observe a few simple rules.


Keep it simple

Slides should be there to assist the audience to remember.  If they are too complicated in their text, you will lose your listeners as they try to absorb what you have on screen.


Use bullet points

Just as I am doing here, the bullet points should be the heading, whilst you, the speaker expand on them.  Further, bullet points are easy for the audience to take in, and if necessary copy down in their notes.


To illustrate or not?

Illustrations such as photos, cartoons, stick figures can often help make a point but don’t overdo it.  They need to be relevant to your point and you should only use them if words are not adequate, or to add (relevant) humour.


Sound effects?

In my opinion, totally irrelevant.  The only sound I want my audience to hear is my own voice.  If I add sound to my slides, then that is a further distraction from the point I am making.



Animation is a great tool to tell your audience that you are moving on – and it’s much better than having all of your points up on screen before you get to them. Find an animation pattern that is reasonably quick and not too distracting in its transition pattern.  If you have too much screen activity between slides you could easily lose your audience.  I prefer the next point, or slide, to come up on the screen as soon as I click the remote.


Use a remote

Much better than moving backwards and forwards to your computer.  With a remote you are free to move around anywhere in the room if you want.  They are relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and a must if you do a lot of presenting.


Speak to the audience

Your computer should be set up with the screen facing directly away from the front of the audience.  This way you can glance down at it without having to turn away from your listeners.  Also you don’t have to look at the screen to see your slides.  When you turn away you are providing another distraction – and what’s more your voice doesn’t carry because you are not facing the right way.  There is a perfectly good duplicate of what is on screen showing on your laptop – so use it.  The computer will also show you what slide is coming up next so you have the perfect prompt to transition your slides.


How many slides?

As I said before, slides are a memory prompt for you – a headline for what you are going to talk about.  So a slide every 90 seconds is probably ideal.


Make them readable

Use a font that is easily read, such as Times New Roman. 

Bold the points so that they stand out.

Use a font size that can be read at the back of the room.  That will vary according to the size of the room but I generally use a minimum size 40

Black is better.  Black is easily read.  Some colours like yellow can’t be seen at all and there are many other colours which are hard to pick up.


Practice with your laptop and projector

Even now, after many presentations, I still practice a new presentation, projecting on to the wall.  It not only highlights imperfections in your slide show, but it also gives you the confidence to deliver the presentation because when you stand up in front of the audience, nothing is new.


Remember, it is your presentation

I have been told many times by somebody at the venue that I cannot set up as I would like.  I just insist that this is the way I deliver a better presentation, and I have not lost that argument.  That’s why it is important to turn up at the venue well before your start time so that you can iron out those sorts of things and adapt if necessary.



There are 11 pointers in this article, and if I was doing a presentation on this subject there would be 11 slides plus one to introduce the subject, and one summary to end – a total of 13.  The only animation would be for the points under ‘Make them readable.”  Follow these simple rules and you will give a flawless presentation.

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