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Tips for creating an effective PowerPoint presentation

Drive2point offers you professional looking PowerPoint presentation templates; however, having a brilliant template does not guarantee that your presentation will be perfect. In fact, the graphical appearance of your presentation is indeed important, but preparing your slides content is crucial to creating the prefect presentation.

Many good books have been written on this; however, studying these may take days or even weeks. If you're short on time, we suggest you read our recommendations which highlight the most important steps in creating your perfect presentation. Our templates were created using our best presentation practices, which we share with you.

Preparing your slides content is crucial - below we share with you our tips and best presentation practices to creating the prefect presentation.

Before you start

Think over your presentation goals. It may sound easy but many people fail to correctly state the entire goal of their presentation. The most common mistake is mixing your own expectations with those of your audience. For example, if you are a manager presenting your company’s range of products to new hires or business partners, your goal might be introducing the assortment to the audience rather than demonstrating your experience and enhanced knowledge of the products. Just imagine – if you are a new hire possessing only a superficial understanding of the industry and listening to a guy who utters barely understandable terms and lists for you all 248 pieces of the gear it consists of. What would your impression of the entire presentation be? So, think of the goal of your presentation first (yes, you’d better name it) and then align it with what your audience expects from your presentation.

Think over your presentation goals. Do not mix your own presentation expectations with those of your audience.

Preparing your content

  • Title slide
    As a rule, the title slide of any presentation displays the title of the presentation, the name of the presenter and the date/place where the presentation takes place. Depending upon the subject matter and the target group of your presentation, some extra information may be included, such as the company/institution name and its logo, the subtitle or subtopic of the presentation (common for education/research) and detailed contact info, if necessary. Unless you really need this extra info, we recommend leaving only the title, yours and/or your company’s name with the logo and date/place to keep your title slide readable yet simple for your audience.
  • Slide content
    Simply put, each of your slides in the presentation should include its title, to help your audience anticipate the progress of your speech, and the main content of your slide (graphs, text, graphics, etc.) In case the structure of your presentation is complex, you might want to number the sections of your agenda and include this number in the title to clearly indicate the progress of your speech for your audience. For example, if one of the sections of your presentation is 3. Key achievements, then you might be better to break it into 3.1. Key achievement 1, 3.2. Key achievement 2, and so on.
  • Preparing the agenda
    Don’t forget to communicate your presentation’s agenda to your audience. In fact, showing your agenda right after your title slide is a good way to engage your audience and provide a clear understanding of what you're going to speak about. Moreover, switching back to your agenda once again upon finishing your speech will help you to restate your key ideas to the public so as to refresh their attention. However!!! Be careful to include only the most important parts of your presentation in the agenda. As a rule of thumb, do not outline more than seven subtopics in your agenda, to keep it short but catchy.
  • Communicate your presentation’s agenda to your audience and provide clear title for each slide.
  • Number of slides
    While the number of slides in your presentation depends heavily upon many factors, such as the topic, the duration of the presentation, its complexity, the audience, etc., a good idea is to keep the total number of slides as low as possible. This means that the fewer slides you need to make your key ideas clear to the audience, the more impact your words will have.
  • What should be included and what should be omitted
    Please remember that your audience expects to hear only what really adds value to their knowledge. Does your pet’s name or a massive mathematical formula behind your data analysis add value to them? Although this might be true (e.g., as a way to gain their attention), in most cases this is definitely not what they would like to remember. As for educational institutions, people usually want to hear what you found out in your research, not how you learned it. In business, your presentation will be more likely to be successful if you can demonstrate how your knowledge will help your listeners benefit from your presentation by applying it in practice (not necessarily financially). 

    So, keeping your slides concise and value-adding will help you keep your audience’s attention during your speech. And it’s not that complicated to do – just always keep in mind the purpose of your presentation and the expectations of your listeners.
Keep your slides concise and value-adding, skip everything that's not relevant. Make sure your listeners can benefit from your speech.

Presenting your content professionally

  • Reading slides vs. explaining
    What would be your overall impression of a presentation where the speaker read out all of the slides word by word, adding no additional comments on the subject? We bet you’d wish you’d skipped such a presentation! Actually, that was not a real presentation you’d say; that was a boring reading class. No one likes reading books from a distance, especially when you have no opportunity to get the answers you might be interested in.

    There’s a huge difference between reading your slides and explaining them. There is no need to read the contents of your slides to your audience. Instead, try to briefly comment on your key ideas so as to make this information as clear to your listeners as possible. Consider each slide of your presentation as a puzzle that you solve for your audience by giving them the right hints.
  • Do not just read your slides; instead, outline your key ideas and provide the right hints for your audience.
  • Waking up your audience
    It’s a shame, but sometimes your public may seem a bit tired or inattentive to your speech. Yes, we’re all different in some way – some of us are too shy, some prefer speaking softly and quietly, while others may seem to be on another planet. While this may greatly impact upon the overall impression of your speech, do not let your public fall asleep during your presentation! Otherwise, your speech will be a waste of time for both you and your listeners.

    Here are some tips on how to maintain your public’s attention:
    • Interacting with you listeners: i.e., asking questions and establishing live communication with them is a very effective tool to make them listen to you.
    • A few relevant inoffensive jokes at the very beginning of your speech and throughout will immediately help you to catch you listeners’ attention and establish open contact with them.
    • Entertaining your audience to a reasonable extent is another way to capture their attention. Why not encourage some of them with sweets for having correctly answered your questions, or put a few relevant but hilarious images on the subject into your presentation? While this is a good idea, be careful not to go too far off topic so that you don't make others feel uncomfortable. Make sure you properly appraise the situation first so that your actions or words will be correctly perceived by the audience (e.g., is it a business meeting or just a training course, do you present to highly educated professionals or mostly teens?).
    • People tend to pay attention to your actions rather than your words. If, during your speech, you can physically demonstrate the items you are speaking about or express your ideas using your body language, you would be better to do so. This will work like a trigger for refreshing your public’s attention.
  • Do not let your public fall asleep during your presentation. Interact with your listeners constantly to keep them focused through the entire speech.
  • Adjust the font style and font size
    Can you see anything written here? Quite tough to read, huh? This is exactly how your listeners see your slides when you use an improper font size for your presentation. It seems quite obvious, but far too many presenters repeat this mistake over and over again! So, how to choose the right font and font size for your slides?

    While there are literally thousands of good looking fonts out there, you probably don’t want to waste your time searching for the perfect one. Unless you really need some special font in your presentation, we suggest you stick to some of the most popular fonts which are normally supplied with your presentation software. Whether it's Calibri, Arial, Verdana, Times New or Cambria, they all look pretty good on the screen and you can go safely with them. If you prefer other fonts, no problem, but please make sure that these fonts are easy to read.

    As to the font size, we suggest that you never use any font size smaller than twenty points, since it may become very difficult to read your text from the distance. If you are to present to a large group of people, you would be better off using no font smaller than thirty points. As general advice, divide the age of your oldest listener by two to get your optimal font size. Please respect your listeners, the only rule here is – the bigger, the better!

    After you have selected your font and justified the font size for your presentation, double check that your font color matches the background color on your slides so that your text is highly visible. Choose either a black font color for light backgrounds or a white one for the dark backgrounds; any other font-background color combination will result in lower readability.
  • Choose the right font size for your slides, the only rule here is – the bigger, the better! As a rule of thumb, divide the age of your oldest listener by two to get your optimal font size.
  • Presenting data and charts
    Various charts and tables are a great way to display data visually. However, there are common pitfalls you need to be aware of when preparing your data slides:
    • Use the maximum font size possible for your charts/tables (20-30 points). Please refer to the Adjust font style and font size section to get more info on using fonts in your slides.
    • Although charts are a great tool for visualizing complex data, it doesn’t mean that your charts need to be complex. Quite the contrary - they must be very clear and intuitive enough so that they help explain your data to your audience. Remove any irrelevant information and hide any intermediate calculations from your charts/tables to present your results and key findings only.
    • People usually perceive graphical information much better than plain text (provided it's properly prepared). So, if you can demonstrate your ideas by using graphs/tables/drawings/SmartArt objects or any other graphical tools, please do so.
  • Make sure your charts are clear and intuitive enough to present your findings. Use the maximum font size possible for your charts (20-30 points).
  • Using animation, 3D graphics and special effects
    All presentation software has hundreds of built-in animation effects to choose from - which ones should you use for your slides? Our advice is: the simpler, the better. Please don’t forget that the main purpose of any presentation is to provide valuable information, rather than demonstrating the latest animation features of your software. The best presentations we have ever seen were brief yet highly informative, they were structured well and their presenters guided the audience through the entire speech. Please note that we can say nothing about the animation effects since no one paid attention to that. So, unless you aim to impress the listeners with some fancy effects, don't waste your time carefully selecting animations for your presentation and play safe with simple fade-in effects.

    As with using animations, don't overestimate the importance of 3D graphics on your slides. The key function of any graphics or charts is to simplify the perception of information, period. In certain cases, using 3D or animated charts is a great tool to demonstrate various trends and complex data, but please make sure you use it only if necessary. Ask yourself if your 3D graphics or special effects make your slides easier to understand – if they don’t, you’d better stick to classic visual tools.
  • Do not use fancy 3D graphics or special animation effects unless they make your slides easier to understand. Don't waste your time carefully selecting animations and play safe with simple fade-in effects.
  • Presentation recap
    As we mentioned earlier, it’s a clever idea to recap the key messages of your presentation before finishing your speech. This will make your speech more memorable and will refresh your listeners’ attention. In other words, if you want to make sure that your audience remembers what you want them to, simply briefly restate your key ideas on a separate slide. Showing your agenda once again is a great tool for doing this; however, you may want to create an extra slide with a brief recap of the info in your presentation as an alternative to your agenda.
  • Handouts
    Preparing handouts for your listeners is a good idea unless your audience is too large or your speech is too short so that there is no need for them. Usually, handouts are printed with three slides per standard A4/letter sheet. Don’t forget to number both the slides and handout pages and staple them together before sharing them with your audience.
Restate your key ideas to recap your presentation at the closing. Use printed materials to make your speech more memorable and provide additional details to explain your findings.

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