PowerPoint Rules of the Road


I helped a very important client establish some rules for their presentations. Most PowerPoint presentations suffer from “too”. Too much information. Too many graphics, too much type, too many slides, too little white space, fonts too small.  These rules below help to alleviate this problem.


What do you want the audience to remember afterwards? Most people can only remember 3 things. What are the 3 critical things you want the audience to recall?

The most important of the 3 things to remember is the takeaway.  What is your presentation’s takeaway?  Express it as a benefit for the audience. Build it into the open and close.

Slide #2 is very important because it communicates the takeaway you want to convey.

The title on a PowerPoint slide is the very top line. It’s often used as a description of that page, such as  “Agenda” “Our Team”  or  “Summary”.  Try to make that heading more active.  For example, instead of “Agenda”, perhaps it might read “How we will reach the goal”.

Keep It Simple

Keep both the design and message simple.

Try to use one slide for every two minutes of your presentation.  A 40 minute presentation has 20 slides. The fewer slides you have, the more you can connect with the audience.

Don’t attempt to put every word and every thought you want to cover on the slides.  The PowerPoint is to help you underscore the big, important points.

One slide per message.


Use two and never more than 3 styles in total.

Fonts should be at least 30 points.

Fonts that work well and are appropriate for your category are: Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri and Courier.


Try to avoid clip art, and never use more than one visual per slide.

If you insist on clip art, don’t make it front and center.  Place it in roughly the same spot on each slide.  I prefer the lower right hand corner, so it doesn’t fight with the type. And, I like the visual to be small but appropriately sized, not big and horsey.

Conversely, if you have an important graph, chart, map, etc. that goes front, center and large, so everyone can read it.

You don’t need an image on every page.  Only use images that help convey the message. For example, when Steve Jobs introduced the new thing laptop, the photo he used to communicate its thinness was the laptop being slid into a manila envelope. That said thin better than even a shot of the laptop alone, because it gave the comparison.


Stick to your corporate palette.

Final Thoughts

Plan your presentation on paper first, then move it to PowerPoint looking to reduce sentences and concepts to simpler ideas.

Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 Rule is good advice. Use no more than 10 slides, speak for 20 minutes and use 30 point font or larger.

You are the star of your presentation, not the slides.  You are the excitement of the pitch, not the PowerPoint.  You are the pizzazz.



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