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Sunday, March 25, 2012

PowerPoint Pointers

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The following contains PowerPoint presentation advice collected from postings by experts on an industry discussion board…

See Also: 

Includes, if you to to their page and use it, very valuable tips on design, wordage, use, application and what to do and not to do...

First appeared February 11, 2010

For details on Power Point Pointers, click "read more" below.

We are too PowerPoint briefing dependent. Just talking, using only essential slides, a few words or key points is being lost to cluttered screens, flying graphics, music, Internet age infotainment in the form of a PowerPoint. It should be there just to support what you are saying, up slightly after you introduce it and up only when you are talking about that particular point. We have become PowerPoint lazy, treating it as if it were a book and a presentation in and of itself. 

There has been a lot of attention lately on new research demonstrating that people actually demonstrate lower information acquisition when confronted with both spoken and written content simultaneously. 


Hence, the "death by powerpoint" perspective. 


If we are giving a presentation or seminar, the focus needs to be on the speaker. A few supporting slides, especially ones that provide some value that is hard to deliver verbally, is great. Bullet points are, generally speaking, just a distraction.

I'd urge everyone to read
Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. Fantastic book, and the forward by Guy Kawasaki (done as a short PowerPoint presentation) is fabulous.

Powerpoint was developed by technical people who built an application. This application was then embraced by people who were terrified to present and thus hide behind too many slides.

Simple rule when building a presentation, don't start with PPT. 


PPT is just another form of Visual Aid, make it part of your presentation not your presentation. Too many people build their entire presentation flow on the PPT slide deck, the presenter should be driving the agenda, not what is on the next slide (also never use PPT wizard). Think of different ways to convey your information.

PowerPoint is just another tool, but it doesn't actually contribute to the learning experience itself. That's up to us, as is deciding whether PowerPoint is the right tool.

Serif graphics hard to read on a computer slide, upper and lower case, full long sentences or worse paragraphs, hard to see or read colors against backgrounds without the proper contrasts, cluttered graphics, video when video is not needed….

Keep in mind it is only a tool, not the entire message. 


It’s a tool. I've seen it used in some of the worst and some of the best presentations I ever came across. Here are some basic guidelines I use:

1) The human mind is hard pressed to give its undivided attention to any one speaker for more than an hour.  In most cases the most engaged audiences will loose interests much faster if you do not use tools, techniques and presentation skills that go far beyond PowerPoint’s.

2) No more than six bullets (and not too lengthy) on a given page. Also use animation to make the bullets appear one by one as you speak to them. Otherwise readers will read ahead of what your saying.

3) Use sound effects sparingly/selectively. This is an art that can easily be abused. If I have a long presentation (say 20-30 slides) I usually will put in a sound effect every 4-5 slides. They can vary to very modest to more dramatic depending on the circumstance and the point being made. At this rate it’s frequent enough to keep they’re attention but not too frequent to distract from the presentation themes.

4) Use pictures, charts, drawings anything non-textual. Don't be afraid to use animation effects with them (sparingly).

5) Take advantage of embedding links to web pages within the presentation if you have interesting web sites to show.

6) Don't be afraid to "ad-lib".

7) When appropriate, music (embedded wav sound files) can help. Again, don't abuse it but use it selectively, as it can also distract.

8) Set up your presentation so that you can ask questions of your audience thru out (whenever appropriate)

9) Do not read the words on the screen and do not look at and talk to the screen. Assume your audience can read, and that the screen already knows what you are going to say.

10) Do not put 113 slides in a two-hour presentation because you want to use the PPT as a handout for the audience members. PowerPoint’s are not the same as handouts!

Get the book, "The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience" by Carmine Gallo.  It is the best presentation book I've read. There is one header in the book that reads, "Bullets Kill" It's great. This book will make us better trainers as well as better presenters.

From Life By PowerPoint presented at Training 2010. The handout is free to all at . Follow the link on the left below the photo.

Too many acronyms and too many words. If you write a presentation you should choose your words carefully, to meet the needs of your audience. Many times presentations are too wordy and not suitable for all audiences. Also the way it’s prepared it not for the regular person it becomes too technical and loses the attention of the audience. I went to one presentation it lasted one hour and all they talked about was techniques and other non-essential things the audience needed to know. I wanted the bottom line. Be careful with terminology. If the PowerPoint presentation is for executives then suit their needs, but if it’s for line personnel then it should be suitable for them without too much terminology.

For briefings as opposed to presentations made by the author of the slides I recommend


And finally PPT after lunch. Lights dimmed. Don't do it! Trust me! :-/



Ryan BC550 said...

I reviewed this article. It's amazing. I use to work at a medical device company and we created power point presentations all the time. It's amazing how much information we put on a slide, how many bullet points we used, etc. We did almost all the "do not's" this spoke of.

Reggie BC550 said...

This is awesome! I am so out of the loop I guess, these are very interesting and helpful. I could see where you would use the do not's easily and now why not to.

nicole said...

Nicole Vidican BC550
I have to say that Ryan is the best at making these things. I used to know how to make them but I forgot a long time ago. But I think its really cool how creative people get.

Courtney Burk said...

These points really help. Power points are such good visual aids!

fred said...

I still will not use the power point. Even though this could be a great guide on making it interesting, I would rather keep it old school. I never really found any power point to be interesting, so I don't really care for them.

Anonymous said...


Berenice said...

i love this post! interesting and helpful to use them!

Anonymous said...

Excellent tips! I hope to be able to use it with one of my speeches coming up.

Erin Penman
Mon 6-8:50