How Can I Take My PowerPoint Presentations From Dull to Amazing?
I have been tasked to make a slideshow for an event at work. I don't want to make a generic
Panicking About PPT
Giving a presentation is a huge and (sometimes) noble responsibility. After all, only you can prevent death by PowerPoint for your audience. Thankfully, several tips, tools, and other resources can help you take your slides up a notch and make them more professional and captivating. We're focusing on PowerPoint for most of the add-ins and templates below, simply because that's the most widely used business presentation software, but many of the other principles and tricks here apply to other presentation apps. Let's get you started.
Avoid the Most Common Presentation Problems
First, before we take a look at jazzing up your slides, it's a good time to review how to avoid the reasons
Lack of preparation or passion. Often presentations don't work because the presenter didn't practice enough or he/she fails to convey the meaning of the presentation. When you passionately communicate the significance of your subject (maybe even with a storytelling structure for drama ), audiences pay attention. To do that well, you have to practice giving your presentation; otherwise, even the most beautiful slides won't help you.
Slides are too complex, overloaded with bullets, lacking in focus, and/or filled with poor quality images.
It's easy to hate on PowerPoint for presentations that suck, but the real problem is how we're using it. Slides shouldn't be used as a prompter to read to your audience nor a place to dump as much data as possible. Instead, they're a visual communication aid to support the most important part of the presentation: you and your message. Just about every presentation advice we've highlighted before (including
5 design mistakes you need to avoid
how to deliver polished presentations Steve Jobs style
Seth Godin's five rules for avoiding really bad PowerPoints are a good guide:
No more than six words on a slide. EVER. There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken. [Also recommended in another post : No bullets. Use a separate slide for each sentence or idea.]
No cheesy images. Use professional stock photo images.
No dissolves, spins or other transitions.
Sound effects can be used a few times per presentation, but never use the sound effects that are built into the program. Instead, rip sounds and music from CDs and
leveragethe Proustian effect this can have. If people start bouncing up and down to the Grateful Dead, you've kept them from falling asleep, and you've reminded them that this isn't a typical meeting you're running.
Don't hand out print-outs of your slides. They don't work without you there.
Similarly, for our guide on
how to create presentations that don't suck
L ose the cliches
I nformation needs emphasis
D esignate elements
E mpathy for the audience
Less is more when it comes to presentations (except for font size):
Those are the basic slideshow creation principles. Once you've got them down, take a look at how you can improve the
Enhance Your Presentation
PowerPoints and other presentation tools are visual aids. You want to connect how your slide looks to what you're saying. As Godin writes:
The home run is easy to describe: You put up a slide. It triggers an emotional reaction in the audience. They sit up and want to know what you're going to say that fits in with that image. Then, if you do it right, every time they think of what you said, they'll see the image (and vice versa).
To make your presentation stand out visually, use and choose these carefully:
Use your own font instead of the default fonts on your computer. Smashing Magazine has a list of
sources for free, quality fonts
or you could buy a font at
many other typography resources
. Godin likens this to ""dressing better or having a nicer business card. It's
Images: Professional quality images, rather than cheesy clipart, will make your presentation stand out. You can buy photos at sites like Getty Images or find a free stock photo using the Everystockphoto.com search engine.
Diagrams and shapes:
Simple graphics and diagrams can illustrate or highlight your information better than text can, but using them effectively can be tricky. This
non-designer's guide to creating diagrams for slides
Even if you don't want to use a cookie-cutter approach to your presentation, a template could be a good starting point for later customization. Microsoft offers a
collection of PowerPoint templates
, many of them professionally designed. Even better,
Microsoft's picture and text effects templates
over 150 of them
Boost PowerPoint's capabilities with third-party add-ins.
offers several, including this
, with tools to help you zoom in and out easier, import pictures faster, and more (it's an old add-in, but still available).
Other presentation helpers/tricks:
Work your presentation like a pro with a few shortcuts.
PowerPoint keyboard shortcuts
Explore Additional Resources
Finally, there are a wealth of other resources on the web that can help boost your presentation, including alternative presentation software.
Alternatives to PowerPoint:
PowerPoint is still the most widely used presentation tool, but if you find it to be overkill or its linear format too limiting,
Learn from masters of presentation design. For further reading, check out these great sites, which focus on making presentations beautiful and effective: Presentations Zen , Beyond Bullets , and Duarte .
Good luck with your presentation!