8 Tips for Using PowerPoint at Your Next Presentation

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At some point in our careers, most of us are subjected to a terrible PowerPoint presentation. The most common issue that presenters encounter is the audience’s inability to read what’s on the screen, and in these cases, the PowerPoint can be a detriment to the presentation rather than an advantage. It can make material appear overwhelming and confusing, even when the speaker is clearly explaining the concepts.

The key to a good PowerPoint presentation is to keep it simple! Here are a few tips for making your next presentation more effective.

Find visuals. We all know the saying, “A picture says worth a thousand words.” That’s certainly true for PowerPoint presentations, but don’t limit yourself to photographs or artwork. Make use of charts, graphs, and other ways to visualize data for your audience.

Use bullet points. When you do want to use words to emphasize what you are talking about, don’t use sentences or paragraphs. People are unlikely to read that much text as you present, and if they are doing this, it means that they’re not listening to you. Instead, try shortening things to simple phrases or even single words.

Make your font size large. Nothing’s worse than a PowerPoint presentation that you can’t read. Unlike Word documents where 12 or 14 point font is perfectly legible, the smallest font you want to use in PowerPoint is 28 to 32 point. Having trouble fitting everything on one slide in that font size? That’s a sign you have too much information on that slide anyway. Split it in two.

Use the “Appear” animation effect. Make it easier for your audience to follow along with you by “building” the slide as you go. This way your audience isn’t reading ahead and getting confused about what points you are making. It can be tempting to use fancier animation effects, but most of them are distracting.

Check the contrast. Simply put: you either want a light background and dark-colored text, or the reverse. If the color of your font matches the background too closely, it will be hard to read.

Use slides sparingly. It can be tempting to use PowerPoint as an outline for yourself, but you don’t need to have a slide for every thought or point you make. Instead, make use of PowerPoint only when it’s adding value to your presentation, and keep that detailed outline on a printout that only you can see.

Consider a separate handout. Sometimes people cram so much into their PowerPoint because they want to ensure their audience has all the information they need when they leave. That’s a valid concern, but this is better suited for a handout than a PowerPoint presentation. This also allows people to relax and focus on what you have to say rather than frantically trying to take notes.

Keep your file size down. In order to avoid technical issues while you give your presentation, you don’t want the file to get too large. When possible, compress the media in your files, and make use of PowerPoint features, such as tables, charts, SmartArt graphics, and shapes, instead of importing graphics from other programs.