How can I create a top-notch PowerPoint presentation?

As a marketing/communications/design professional, I see many, many PowerPoint presentations. Yet, I can’t remember the last time I saw a good one. How often do you see slides with lots of text? To me, these slides are examples of speaker note cards, not a good presentation slide. Before you start creating slides, think about what you want to accomplish and ask yourself if you even need a PowerPoint presentation. You may or may not. 

For those of you who are creating presentations for your organizations, let me offer these tips:

  1. Know your audience and your goal. Knowing who you are presenting to and what you want to accomplish will help keep you focused on creating engaging, relevant content and using language that will be understood easily.
  2. Create the right amount of slides. Ask your host how much time you have allotted and if you are able to take questions. How many slides should you have? Only as many as you need to support your points. That doesn’t mean putting 100% of your words on the screen, because then the audience may be conflicted (do I read the slide, or do I listen?). Use limited text with simple visuals and graphics.
  3. Strive to create slides that are clean and uncluttered. Don’t fill every inch of the frame, it’s good to have white space (empty space). Instead of filling up the slide with text, take advantage of speaker notes, which can be printed out and referred to during your presentation. Try to make headings short (1 line).
  4. Use easy-to-understand language. If you are going to use an acronym, spell out the first reference. Never assume that everyone in your audience is familiar with the term. Avoid any jargon. For example, if you are a clinician don’t use complex medical terminology, unless your entire audience is composed of clinicians. No one will ever complain that the language you used was too simple.
  5. Use crisp, clean visuals. A good visual can help get point across without the use of a lot of words. You can use an original image (an image you took), or purchase a stock photo. Images you found on the internet (e.g. Google images) may not be in the public domain and be free to use. Beware of copyright infringement.
  6. Cite your sources. When referencing topics like research, cite your source to give credit to the publisher of the work. Also, be sure that you have permission to use the work. Sometimes the work is in the public domain and all you need to do is cite the reference. But, sometimes a work is proprietary and you need permission to use it.
  7. Practice giving your presentation. I can’t emphasize this enough. Rehearse your presentation until you are comfortable and know the material well. Time yourself to be sure you can do your presentation, including time for questions and answers, within your allotted time. Do you want to turn off your slide so you can make a point? You can press ‘.’ (dot) in PowerPoint slideshow mode to produce a black screen, and ‘,’ (comma) to get a white screen. Then press any key to get back to your presentation (exactly where it was).
  8. Review and proofread your presentation. Ask for feedback from someone else (e.g., someone on your team or someone who represents your audience). Having a fresh pair of eyes can help you to see things that you may have missed. Check your grammar and spelling. Be sure slides can be read from a distance. 
  9. Use your organization’s PowerPoint presentation template. Check with your marketing & communications department to be sure you are using the most current version of your organization’s presentation template. You want to be a good brand ambassador, whether you are presenting to internal or external audiences.
  10. Need help? Please reach out to discuss your next project.