Communication skills

Creating effective PowerPoint presentations

- September 14, 2009 3 MIN READ

Death by PowerPoint! We’ve all experienced it at some stage … and may have also been guilty of it ourselves. Here’s how to create effective PowerPoint presentations to avoid alienating your audience.

Nowadays PowerPoint is a common presentation tool and slides should provide an at-a-glance understanding of the material that supports your main points.

Good slides are:

  • Visible with ideally three to four words per line and five lines per slide
  • Clear – each slide should only contain one idea
  • Simple words and phrases should be used, or pictures rather than sentences

Keeping these points in mind, let’s look at the four steps to creating effective PowerPoint presentations.

1. Create and structure your content

  • When creating your content, consider:
  • Who is your audience?
  • What is the objective of your presentation?
  • What do you want your audience to do as a result of your presentation?

Then order your main points into a logical format.

2. De-clutter

Presenters often fall into the trap of writing their whole presentation on their slides. When this happens, your audience will spend too much time trying to read the slide rather than listen to you.

Follow the KIS rule – Keep It Simple remembering that less is more.

Use pictures. Pictures are worth a thousand words. They are more interesting to look at and can help boost retention. At the same time, avoid the use of too much animation. This can be a major distracter for your audience. Use it only if it will add to your presentation.

Want more articles like this? Check out the business writing section.

3. Design the slides


Use a font that is easy to read. San serif fonts such as Arial work better on a projected image.

PowerPoint comes with a default setting of 44 points for the title and 32 points for the body of a slide. If you’d prefer to use a smaller font size, ensure that it can still be read.

Capitalise only when necessary. Capitals imply shouting. It is also more difficult for the human eye to read.


For the most effective PowerPoint presentations, use a colour of font that contrasts with the background. Occasionally use colour to emphasise a point.

Colour can also be used to reinforce the logic of the structure of your slides. For example, a light blue title and a dark blue text.


Keep your backgrounds simple and use the same one throughout your slide presentation. This ensures that the content of the slide is easy to read and your message is understood.


Trends are easier to visualise in graphical form. In saying this, graphs need to be easily understood.

To ensure this, follow these steps:

  • Remove any unnecessary minor gridlines.
  • Ensure that the font is easy to read.
  • Use colours that are logical. That is, if you’re comparing the sale of blue and red balls using a column graph then the columns should be in the respective colours.
  • Avoid any unnecessary shading.
  • Always title your slides.

Proof read your slides

Proof read your slides for spelling and grammar. An incorrectly spelt word will be quickly picked up by audience members and will detract from your presentation.

4. Practise! Practise! Practise!

Once you’ve organised your slides, it’s important to practise the presentation with the slideshow.

Remember that you are the most important visual. You should stand in a left to right orientation to the slideshow from the audience’s perspective. This is because audiences in the western hemisphere read from left to right.

Will you be using the laptop keyboard or a remote to move from slide to slide? How will this affect where you stand when presenting?

To deliver effective PowerPoint presentations, your presentation needs to flow, so ensure you practise using whatever equipment you’ll need. Make the slideshow part of your presentation to complement your message.

Keeping these points in mind, you’ll be able to produce slides that will enhance your message and avoid the dreaded death by PowerPoint.

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

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