Top tips for PowerPoint Presentations

DSC_6780-2Many of the societies and local social groups who are looking for outside speakers now have the facilities to show PowerPoint presentations, which means that their members now expect something visual. There are definite advantages for you as a speaker using PowerPoint so it’s well worth mastering the simple techniques involved.

Before looking at how to make the most of your slides remember the golden rule:-

Script First – Slides Later

The slides illustrate your presentation – they are NOT the presentation itself.

Begin planning your presentation by listing the main points you want to get across – probably no more than half a dozen. As you flesh out your script remember that like any good story, it should have a beginning, middle, and an end. Only then, think how best to illustrate the points you are making and don’t be tempted to draw out sections simply because you can find more pictures to illustrate them.

When it comes to the selection and design of your slides, I’m going to add another rule:-

Think about the person on the back row

Now to my top tips:-

1   Keep it simple

Avoid clutter and avoid too many words or images on one slide. Keep the text to a minimum – a few bullet points – and avoid small print. Don’t have so many illustration slides that you click through quickly dizzying your audience.

2   Backgrounds

Even pictures look better on a coloured background. Cool colours such as blues and greens tend to work best. Strong, bright colours will stand out too much. Even the glare of a white background will strain the eyes after any length of time. A dark text on a light background is easiest to read.

slide 3

slide 2

3   Text

A simple non-serif font generally works best. Be consistent throughout the presentation keeping to the same front throughout. Apart from headings, don’t centre the text. It is more difficult to read.


slide 1

If you put up a whole page of writing your audience will be distracted trying to read it instead of listening to you. Similarly, animate bullet points as you mention each one rather than displaying all of them at once.

4   Keep it visual

Use high quality images and avoid ‘cheesy’ cartoons and clip art unless you have a good reason for doing so.

5   Avoid flashy animations

Pictures or text that fly in or whirl around are not only hard on the eye they distract from what you are saying.

6   Learn how to use presenter view

If you use notes, have them written on your laptop in the notes section. As I said in my previous blog on advice for speakers, use bullet points rather than writing out your talk in full. Try to maintain eye-contact. Your audience wants to see your face, not the top of your head.

7   Important information goes at the top

Few locations have custom-built lecture facilities and the lower section of the screen is often obscured by the rows of people sitting in front. Avoid taking the text right to the bottom of the slide and label pictures at the top rather than below.

8   Adapt the presentation to your audience

How much prior knowledge does your audience have about your subject? It can be a fine line between being too ‘technical’ and patronising your audience. An older audience may also be unfamiliar with current jargon. It is not only the contents of your talk and the language you use that you need bear in mind.  Older people may well have more difficultly appreciating contrast so pick your background and text colours accordingly.

9   Trial your presentation

Slides which look satisfactory on a small screen may appear washed out (backgrounds appear much paler) and low-resolution photographs may look pixelated on the projection screen. The level of ambient light in the room makes a considerable difference so if you are not familiar with the venue try to find out in advance how well the room blacks out and adjust your presentation accordingly.

10 Check your technology

Before your talk, make sure your laptop is fully charged and that you have leads to cope with every eventuality. It is worth checking when you make the last minute requirements exactly what they are providing for you. If you are using the club’s laptop, is the software compatible?

If you have any suggestions to add I’d love to hear from you.


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