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Creating a Quality PowerPoint Presentation

By Edited Sep 9, 2015 7 17

Technology is constantly changing the way we live. The internet has exploded in popularity over the past 20 years, and computers are outdated as soon as we buy them!

Technology regarding everyday conferences and presentations is also changing significantly, and we can be assured that the use of overhead projectors will soon be (if not already) completely replaced by powerpoint presentations.

Although this method of presentation is becoming quite standard in the worlds of both business and academia, many individuals are still unsure of what to focus on when creating a powerpoint presentation. This struggle can often lead to a presentation that looks unorganized and unprofessional, leaving the presenter feeling embarrassed and unprepared, and the audience feeling bored and dissatisfied.

The following tips will help you develop a basic understanding of how to quickly and efficiently compose a high quality powerpoint for your next big meeting, conference, or presentation.

1. Avoid excessive creativity.

Although it is great to put a personal spin on your presentations, subtlety is key. Many individuals are intimidated by powerpoints because they provide the creator with numerous options. The good news is that, depending on the type of setting in which the powerpoint will be presented, many of these options are unnecessary and should sometimes be completely avoided.

It is not necessary to use the text animations that cause sentences to disappear or zoom across the page. This can look unprofessional and, even worse, slow the presentation to an unbearable pace (each animation requires another click). Use of these animations annoys many individuals; therefore, utilizing them only causes you to waste a good deal of time making your presentation less enjoyable for the audience!

If you are trying to hide an answer to a question, or list things to discuss one at a time, use the most simplistic animation option possible (one click to make the text appear). Always avoid spinning, bouncing, and anything else that resembles a lack of professionalism.

Don't go overboard with colors or word art. There are numerous generic powerpoint templates that provide you with everything you need to look professional - including text color themes to match their respective slide templates. Too much color or "pizzazz" can make it difficult for others to take your presentation seriously.

Instead of using colors, outlines, and word art to "tweak" your text, simply utilize the bold, italics, and underline capabilities. When used effectively, these tools can draw attention to your main points, while also maintaining the project's professional appearance and quality.

When it comes to powerpoints, simplistic quality beats excessive creativity.

2. Utilize a wide array of audio-visuals

Technological advances have significantly increased the ease with which people can incorporate audio-visual resources into their presentations. This is one of the biggest advantages that powerpoints have over the "old school" overhead approach to presenting. Use this advantage to draw and also maintain your audience's attention.

By adding charts, graphs, pictures, and videos, your powerpoint will become much more engaging, and therefore more interesting. Nobody enjoys presentations that follow a lecture format.

Sometimes simply hearing a different voice (audio recordings or videos) is enough to pique people's curiosity. Pull ideas and facts related to your topic from the extensive online resource libraries that are now available to the public. This will improve the overall quality of your information.

Graphs, charts, and pictures are great because they don't present words. If an individual likes the picture, but you don't put any words on the slide, they'll have to listen to your explanation of the picture in order to fully understand why it was included in the presentation.

Incorporating a wide variety of these resources will break up your presentation, making it much easier for people to stay attentive and, better yet, awake.

3. Keep the word count per slide to a minimum

You are providing a visual presentation for a reason - people want to SEE something. Too often, individuals create powerpoints with hundreds of words per slide. This high amount of writing would be great if you were simply handing out a paper or report for everyone to read; however, presentations are supposed to be presented, not read.

When people see powerpoints with a high volume of words, they automatically tune-out the presenter. Oftentimes, having words on every slide also causes the presenter to read from the slides. This leaves the presenter looking unprepared, and the authenticity of the presentation is lost. Furthermore, the audience members will feel obligated to read everything on every slide, causing them to miss anything extra that you may decide to verbally add.

Anyone can read a powerpoint. People are attending your presentation to hear a unique perspective on a topic, so that is what you should give them! Practice your presentation beforehand, and only leave key points and themes on your slides when presenting (utilize outline formatting).

4. Place at least one picture on every slide

As previously emphasized, powerpoints are visual presentations. Staring at words for hours on end is horribly boring, which is why people would rather watch powerpoints with a strong audio-visual presence.

Place a picture on each slide that is relevant to that slide's key point. This tactic will draw attention to the slides and help convey your key points and overall message. Following tip #3 will provide you with the extra room on each slide that is necessary to comfortably add pictures.

If your pictures catch the audience's attention, more people are likely to become genuinely interested in what you are saying, and, in turn, listen intently to your presentation.

5. Focus on formatting

Nothing is worse than trying to follow along with a powerpoint that is full of typos and cut off words. Individuals that truly care about their topics and present quality information spend time editing their slides.

Vary the layout of slides to keep things interesting, but always allow for adequate space on each slide. Minimize word count, and check and double-check for typos. If things on a slide seem too tight, consider eliminating a point, or creating two slides for the content instead of one. Following tip #4, try to place a relevant picture on every slide.

Having a title on each slide is also essential, even if it says "______ part two" as the second slide covering a specific topic. This allows your audience to easily understand what topic you're covering at any given time.

Once you've "finished" your powerpoint, go through it at least four more times. The first time, check for placement, making sure that everything you intend to be visible to your audience is actually visible (not cut off by the slide or hidden by a picture).

The second time, edit the quality of your content, eliminating all typos and spelling errors.

The third time, edit the flow of your content. Do your phrases flow nicely? Are all of the words necessary? Are you being redundant? This is where you can really focus on eliminating wordiness.

The fourth and final time, run the powerpoint as though it is being presented. Criticize it as an audience member would. Does anything look out of place? What would you change about it? This will give it the final professional look you desire.

You are now ready to create a high quality, professional grade powerpoint! Yes, things can get more complicated if you'd like them to, but as long as you follow these basic pointers, designing your next powerpoint will be easy and enjoyable.



Jun 30, 2010 3:23pm
I have sat through too many appalling powerpoint presentations where the presenter has my eyes spinning with text fadeins etc and where basically the presenter is hiding behind the powerpoint slides. This should be compulsory reading for every lecturer and presenter. Just one point to add - Too often people give out the printed version of their presentation before the screen one, that way nobody listens, they just read off the sheet. Also avoid print out swith 4 slides to a sheet, so small you need a hand lens. As you can see I feel strongly on this, Thank you
Jun 30, 2010 4:05pm
Excellent point. I agree with avoiding handing out the presentation beforehand. Thanks for the feedback philtrate!
Jun 30, 2010 7:04pm
Great article on powerpoint, thanks!
Jul 11, 2010 10:49pm
I've never had to do presentations, nor practice with it a lot. I won't mind using Powerpoint if I had to. I like to be creative. Your article is good with a lot of tips.

Having Powerpoint to help you with lectures could really help people who are more shy than others.
Aug 1, 2010 1:18am
This comment has been deleted.
Aug 1, 2010 5:21am
Fiona, you shouldn't do this! In my opinion it is spam and inappropriate at the same time!
Aug 1, 2010 1:18am
This comment has been deleted.
Aug 1, 2010 5:17am
Great article with many good points!

I have done thousands of presentations, but it is always refreshing to read info about what to do or not to do.
About the 'hand out' of the slides: Well, in my opinion there is a right way and a wrong way to do this:

The wrong way is related to those presentations where the speaker simply reads/repeats what is written on each slide. This is an insult to the audience, as if they can't read!

The right way of 'hand out' can be performed many ways. The two main methods are: A) Each slide is an opening to a Q/A dialogue with the audience. - B) A full detailed 'copy set' is 'handed out' after the presentation, but the speaker informs the audience about this when the presentation begins (this will secure that the audience listen to the speaker, instead of wasting time writing down personal notes.
Aug 1, 2010 10:21am
HFT - this is a great article! You really nailed it. I'm glad this made the front page so more people will see it.
Aug 1, 2010 10:30am
Congrats on getting on the front page! A very informative article-I will show it to my daughter, who does these for school. I have to admit that once my twins were born in 2002, I have fallen woefully behind in technology. I have never made a PowerPoint presentation!
Aug 1, 2010 1:14pm
Congrats on front page. This is a very informative article!
Aug 2, 2010 9:02pm
Subtlety is key. Some people can be overwhelmed by too much graphics and miss the points you are trying to get across if too much graphics are used.
Sep 2, 2010 5:58am
Like my wife says,"Less is more." This is an awesome artice. Thanks.
Sep 6, 2010 2:54am
Thanks for sharing this;)
Oct 7, 2010 3:04am
great article there HFT!!! Just this morning I sat through an ugly presentation: not enough pictures, too many words, bad formatting and v boring!!!
Nov 19, 2010 1:05am
its good to have a video clip right at the start of a presentation...
Dec 5, 2010 2:56am
I agree with a lot of your points there! I try to keep maximum words on a slide to 32, unless I'm quoting!
Feb 24, 2011 12:17pm
Worst part of any powerpoint presentation is if the person reads off the slides. I like using images in my presentations, maybe a short youtube video or a quote to elaborate on a point. Too many animations can be distracting, you want them focused on you and your ideas!
Dec 3, 2013 1:30am
Good post. Totally agree with you on the excessive creativity point - we gotta strike a right balance.
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