PowerPoint Tips


People ask: How do I make a good PowerPoint presentation? There is no alchemy that will transform lead into gold, but here are a few guidelines that might help.

Do Unto Others …. It’s amazing how often this simple rule guides us to the right result.

The purpose of your presentation is to convey your message to your audience. Focus on them, not yourself. Ask what will help them understand and remember what you have to say. An approach that works at a technical conference might not at a sales team pep rally.

Sample PowerPoint Slide
Can’t Read This? Neither Can Your Audience.

How Will the Presen­tation Be Given. Many people use Power­Point to project slides while they speak to a group. But others use it to create printed booklets, or presentations that are played continuously in an office lobby or trade show booth.

Method of presentation determines a number of things. Twelve point text and lengthy paragraphs are fine in a printed booklet, but not likely to be read when projected on an auditorium screen. And if people in the auditorium do read them, they aren't listening to you.

Color and Font. There is no magical font or color combination that will assure success. The most important thing about a font is that it be easy to read. The sample below is not.

Sample of Ornate Font
Would You Want to Spend an Hour Reading This Font?

Behavioral scientists study what colors and shapes people find attractive.1 Red clearly draws attention. But in finance it usually indicates a loss. So you might want to think twice before coloring your best salesperson’s results red for emphasis in a presentation being made to your firm’s CFO.

Guy Kawasaki’s 10, 20, 30 Rule. An early Apple employee now in venture capital, Kawasaki gives seminars for young entrepreneurs. He advises2 that a PowerPoint presentation should —

Advice from Aristotle. PowerPoint can help get a point across, but it can’t make up for lack of content or structure. For this we can turn to one of the basic rules of public speaking derived from Aristotle’s Rhetoric: Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them.

  1. Why We Love Beautiful Things. Lance Hosey, New York Times, February 15, 2013.
  2. The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint by Guy Kawasaki. You can watch Kawasaki himself explain the rule on YouTube.

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Updated November 10, 2013.