Top 5 tips for perfecting your Powerpoint

PowerPoint is a part of the Microsoft Office family and the usual go-to for creating presentations.  There are alternatives out there (e.g. Prezi) – but you will have to learn to use PowerPoint regardless.

Like most Office programmes, PowerPoint has an amazing array of functionality and most people will only every use a small percentage of them – so it is vital that at whatever level you are you use it correctly.  Below are five top tips to stick to to ensure you perfect the basics of creating professional PowerPoint every time.

1. Planning, planning, planning

Before you start creating your presentation in PowerPoint it is highly advisable to map out the structure.  Every presentation will have a different goal/purpose and so the structure you create should reflect that.  For example, a sales pitch is going to be very different in design to a training document.  What do you want to achieve by the end of your presentation?   How are you going to get there?  You’ll need sections and by mapping this out on paper before you start you can ensure you stick to a good flow.

Ultimately you want to avoid the ‘Death by PowerPoint’ – the term used to describe a presentation with far too many slides.  We’ve all done it.  And we’ll probably all do it again.  

Your PowerPoint shouldn’t do more of the presentation than you. Slides are there as a visual guide – for both you and the audience – and you want to keep it to a minimum number where possible.  Ten is a good number - more than twenty and you’ll be dangerously close to the crime.  

2. Notes

You shouldn’t read off your slide.  If you are doing this then you’ve got too many words on there.  You’ve also probably not practiced enough.

PowerPoint has great functionality to help keep words off your slides and help you remember what you are meant to be saying.  The notes function means you can add pointers, explanations, generally complicated things you can’t memorise under your slide so that when you are presenting only you can see it on your screen.  

The audience will only see the slide you have created.  Be careful though – just because you’re not reading off the slide it doesn’t mean you can get away with reading off your notes!

3. Try to be visual where you can

If you’re finding your presentation is still too ‘wordy’ – and you can’t possibly cut anymore out – consider using more visuals.  This could be something like a chart, an organogram, graphic, or a video.  It is good practice to use visuals where you can as it breaks up your presentation and you’ll find it handy when you want to elaborate on a point.  You can usually get the equivalent of five slides of text into one visual.

4. Use hand-outs for complicated slides

If your message is still proving too complicated to explain, consider using hand-outs during the presentation to help illustrate your point.  This could be of the slide you’re explaining, or additional material that will make everything clearer.  

Be wary of timing for hand-outs thought - giving this out at the wrong point could ruin your flow. For example, if you hand out something at the start, your audience will immediately look at it and you’ll lose their focus.  Equally, if it isn’t obvious what it is, a confused audience can be worse than one that isn’t listening.

Make sure your timing fits with the structure of your presentation and practice to make sure you find the right timing.

5. Formatting 

Finally – and this is an obvious one so often over looked - use the same colour schemes, fonts, and logos that you use on your website or company literature.   If you’re not sure what these are then ask your marketing team for the company brand guidelines.  Make sure that your formatting is then the same throughout.  

A sloppily formatted presentation stands out immediately and you only have a few seconds to grab your audience’s attention and make an impression.