Before You Create a PowerPoint Presentation

Tips that will make your next PowerPoint presentation better

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.

Instructions in this article apply to PowerPoint 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010; PowerPoint for Mac, PowerPoint for Office 365, and PowerPoint Online.

Match Design to Purpose

A screenshot showing a custom show in PowerPoint

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

Design fonts

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.

Consider the 7x7 rule. Use no more than seven lines per slide and no more than seven words per line.

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

Be Consistent

Be Consistent

Use the same colors and fonts throughout a presentation. 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. If you can't find a template you like, create your own 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 the 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 the presentation software inside and out. PowerPoint is included in Microsoft Office standalone and 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.