Before You Create a PowerPoint Presentation

colleagues sitting with laptops in presentation
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Before getting all caught up in the gee-whiz features of PowerPoint, remember that the purpose of a presentation is to present information—not overwhelm the audience with a demonstration of the software's bells and whistles. The software is merely a tool. Avoid the typical pitfalls of PowerPoint presentations with purpose, simplicity, and consistency.

Match Design to Purpose

Decide if your presentation is meant to entertain, inform, persuade or sell. Is a light-hearted or a more formal approach most appropriate to the subject and your audience? Keep colors, clip art and templates consistent with your main objective.

PowerPoint allows you to create custom shows within a presentation. In this way, you create the basic, all-purpose slideshow, but you can easily tailor that presentation to different audiences.

Keep It Simple

As with any design, cut the clutter. Two font families is a good rule of thumb. No more than one graphic image or chart per slide is another good rule, excluding a corporate logo or another recurring element in the design.

Presenter's University suggests the 666 rule for simplicity in design: Use no more than six words per bullet, six bullets per image and six-word slides in a row.

Keep the content simple too. Focus on the most important facts. Information overload will put your audience to sleep.

Be Consistent

Use the same colors and fonts throughout. Select graphic images in the same style. Templates go a long way toward helping to maintain consistency.

There are both good and not-so-good PowerPoint templates available on the web. Choose carefully to find the template that provides consistency and readability, and that is appropriate to your message and image—or create your template.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice delivering the presentation until you can do so without odd pauses. Practice working the room and making eye contact with your audience. You don't want to present with your head buried in your notes.

Focus on the Audience

When possible, make the audience the main character in your presentation. Use the presentation to help them solve a problem they face.

Forget the Jokes

It is a business presentation. Don't try to compete with your favorite comedian. You can be friendly without being laugh-out-loud funny.

Know Your Platform

A comfortable presenter knows his presentation software inside and out. PowerPoint 2016 comes in every edition of Microsoft Office 2016 and is included in most Office 365 configurations. A PowerPoint app is available for Android and iOS mobile devices; it requires a subscription to Office 365. Whichever version you use, take the time to learn it well.

PowerPoint Alternatives

PowerPoint may be the best-known and most used presentation software, but it's not your only option. The tips on this page apply equally to presentations created in PowerPoint and PowerPoint alternatives, including Keynote, SlideShark, Prezi and other free presentation software.