Tag Archives: PowerPoint

PowerPoint Tips

PowerPoint for Zoom

-Animate the bullets. Discuss one bullet line at a time before you move on.

-Cover less material, but cover it deeper and more repetitively. 

-Follow rules for a strong open and close format (see my Opening tips).

If you are presenting a deck on Zoom, there are a few things you should consider:

-Build in redundancy.  Show slides with progress information.

Progress Slides Help the Audience Follow Along

Progress slides are usually redundant slides that have a graphic indication communicating where in the process we are. It’s usually numbered or lettered A,B,C.  It connects the dots for the audience, an important feature when presenting on Zoom.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Use PowerPoint

Actually, PowerPoint has its virtues. It’s a useful process to help the speaker assemble and organize comments, and to talk without notes. Check out Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (Voices That Matter) by Garr Reynolds for great ways to prepare slides.

PowerPoint and the 10/20/30 Rule*

A good rule for making a presentation is to follow the 10/20/30 guideline:

-Use no more than 10 PowerPoint slides,

-Speak no longer than 20 minutes,

-Set your type in the slides to no smaller than 30 point font.

*I stole this tip directly from Guy Kawasaki, one of the early and brightest stars at Apple and now a venture capitalist and columnist. However, in our Zoom world, you’ll need more slides because of the repetitiveness necessary. 

Effective PowerPoint

The next zombie movie Hollywood will shoot is based on an auditorium of people who had to watch a PowerPoint presentation.

PowerPoint Presentations are always too long, with too many words on too many slides.

Keep going through the slides and eliminate words, bullets, pages, graphics and anything else you find.  The goal is to have a few key words set in 30 point font or larger.  Try to keep it to 10 slides.

Edit ferociously.

Visuals in PowerPoint Tricky

In some presentations, Steve Jobs had a total of seven words in 10 slides. He allowed visuals do the work. 

Try hard to express yourself more visually in your PowerPoint slides without using gratuitous photos and illustrations. Avoid bullets.  This is easier said than done.  Steve Jobs had a huge team of graphic designers to help him create the perfect visual. If you don’t have such a team working for you, it might be better to just have simple type slides with powerful colors.

Make PowerPoint More Powerful

A researcher who studies PowerPoint reports that people were better able to recall the main message of slides when presented with a full-sentence headline written as an assertion rather than a word or phrase headline.

“Strong eye contact persuades the audience you are confident” is a more powerful message than “strong eye contact = confidence” for example.

You Don’t Always Need PowerPoint

When my friend was leaving the ad agency where we both worked, he threw a party and gave a slide show about his experiences at the firm.  With each slide he described vivid scenes in detail.  But, the screen was blank. He never went to the trouble of actually making slides.

To this day when any of us get together to reminisce, we talk about that slide show. No one recalls that the slides were blank.  We each remember the colorful story that was painted.

PowerPoint is a crutch. You can create memorable pictures with words.

Slides vs. Leave-Behinds

The dilemma that many presenters bring upon themselves is that they want their presentation slides to double as their leave-behind material.

An effective PowerPoint uses sparse language and powerful pictures to dramatize what the speaker is discussing.

A good leave-behind has pages of detail.

Never the twain shall meet.

How to Write a Presentation

When writing your presentation, don’t start with PowerPoint.

Develop and write what you’re going to say first.  Identify the one thought you want the audience to take away and then determine how PowerPoint can add to the impact. When you create a presentation in PowerPoint first, it gets very wordy and uses silly visuals that are gratuitous.

You may even find you don’t need PowerPoint at all.

PowerPoint in a Business Pitch

PowerPoint may have its place in a business pitch, but not necessarily in the open and close. Especially if using Zoom, start your pitch with all the faces on the screen, then, after you present your thesis, go to the PowerPoint. 

Whenever you use PowerPoint, the audiences’ eyes are staring at the screen.  But, often in the open and close, you want the audience to look at you because you want to connect with them.

In the opening, you want to explain why what you are about to say is important to them.  In the close, you want them to feel confident with you and agree to whatever you propose. 

Don’t look at the screen when presenting

Your audience is much more likely to hear what you have to say, understand what you just said and like you, if you make eye contact with them as you speak.  Even using Zoom, that means looking at the lens and not the PowerPoint.

No PowerPoint

A lawyer told me that last year was his best year ever because he stopped using PowerPoint to make pitches and just started talking face to face with prospects. How retro.

When speaking face to face with people, they are more likely to hear and understand you.  They are more likely to trust you.  Not every occasion requires PowerPoint.

Make PowerPoint Headings More Active

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”.

Make that heading more active. Instead of “Agenda”, have it read “7 Steps to Reach the goal”, for example.

How Important is PowerPoint?

Put a lot more energy and time into your message and words than in creating PowerPoint slides. 

 You are the presentation. The slides are just a tool.

Less Slides, More Personality

The more slides in your deck, the less your personality shines in the presentation.

Any hope for passion, impromptu comments, and insight goes out the window because your focus is clicking through slides, not talking to the audience.

Try to keep the slides to about one for each minute you speak.

PowerPoint Can Make You Look more Powerful

The less time you spend reading your own slides, and the more time you connect with the audience, the stronger and more confident you appear. That means you need to rehearse more for a presentation that uses slides, than for one that doesn’t.

Survival Tool

One small yet powerful tool you should have is a wireless slide changer for PowerPoint if you are presenting live.  If you are Zoom, ask the host to give you control of the slides. 

Now you can walk the stage, hold on to something to calm nerves, and, appear more confident because you’re not constantly breaking the flow of the presentation to ask for the “next slide, please”.


Don’t listen to Steve Jobs.

For years I have been haunted by Steve Jobs, the presenter.  He was an exquisite presenter, with a great style, presence and charisma.  We can all learn things from how he worked.

But for years, I had to combat those clients who read enough of Jobs’ presentation philosophy to be dangerous.  Jobs preferred graphics over words in his slides.  Clients tried to do the same thing, but they had two problems; they didn’t have the confidence to reduce the word count on the slides for fear they might miss something.  And, they used stock art and stock photos.  Some of the graphics were good.  Most were gratuitous and had little to do with the point of the narrative.

Jobs didn’t have to use stock photos for his slides.  He had a huge art department that spent months creating the perfect slide to convey the point Jobs was making.  Most of us don’t have such an art department, or budget, at our disposal.

So, while everyone tried to emulate Jobs’ presentation style, they couldn’t.  But, not just because of the slides.

Jobs was famous for preparation and rehearsal.  He worked his presentation until it was close to perfect and tweaked every word to get things just right.  Many of the clients I’ve seen put in a minimum amount of time for preparation and almost nothing for rehearsal.  If you are going to copy the great man, you gotta do everything he did.

Jobs was a minimalist.  He didn’t try to cover every product and every feature and every selling point when he presented a new product.  He had one big takeaway and 2 or 3 support points.  Most clients aren’t comfortable unless they empty the closet of every selling feature they can think of.

The greatest disconnect that most clients have with Jobs’ style is the product itself.  Jobs had spectacular, mold-shattering, beautiful  products that the world had never seen before.  Imagine if you are the presenter and what you have to show is a telephone no one has ever even imagined that also plays music and becomes a pocket laptop.  That’s a really easy thing to present. You own the audience from the moment you take it out of your shirt pocket.  You don’t need lots of slides to explain it or justify it. The mere demonstration of the product does it all for you.  OK, now imagine you are presenting instead, a line of shoes that are new but very similar in every way to what’s out there in the market now.  Or, you are presenting a process for auditing financial records which is a newer version of the one you introduced last year.  It is impossible to present them the way Jobs did.  The audience just won’t respond.  You may need to justify the presentation with more content, more words on slides, more data.

I am a great admirer of how Jobs presented.  He was a genius.  I loved that his slides were sparse, that he was disciplined to stick to a few points, that he spoke to the audience and not the screen behind him.  He had a terrific, yet simple mantra: concrete/simple/emotional.

Look at the new iMac.  It’s thin and light (concrete), it’s so thin it can slide into a manila envelope (simple). Isn’t it fabulous (emotional).”

There are lots of things we can learn from him (Read: Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo).  But, applying all of his techniques to each person’s presentation is never going to work.

Learn from the master, then make it fit your style and product.twitterredditpinterestlinkedintwitterredditpinterestlinkedin

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.


Perfect PowerPoint Procedures

I’m conflicted by PowerPoint.

It certainly has its virtues, but it has a Mr. Hyde side lurking in dark alleys.  For my own use, PowerPoint is a great cue card that helps me make presentations with less anxiety.  But, I use as little of it as I can.  Most people, however, use as much PowerPoint as they are able to jam into a presentation. The result is often poor communications, presentations that go on longer than they have to with less real connection between the presenter and the audience.

Recently I helped a client with his PowerPoint.  It was quite long and packed with clip art, catch phrases, a dozen typefaces and no design scheme to the information.  It was a dog’s breakfast, as the Canadian’s like to say.  I went through the slides and eliminated a dozen, consolidated more, removed most of the clip art, standardized the fonts and design, and eliminated duplicity.  The client, upon seeing the slides said that they didn’t excite him.  There was no “pizzazz”.  Which brings up an observation about PowerPoint.  You are the star of your presentation, not the slides.  You are the excitement of the pitch, not the PowerPoint.  You are the pizzazz.

PowerPoint is not there to be the comedian that gets a chuckle from the audience from some obscure photo or clip art,  or a cartoon of a man sticking his head in the sand.  If you’re taking up the audience’s time, give them value. If they want chuckles, they can watch Curb Your Enthusiasm.

PowerPoint has made us lazy presenters.  We think we’re working hard as we churn out a hundred slides for a 50 minute presentation, but the opposite is true.  Our real message is now buried in some obscure slide that has a rainbow and elves running around on it.

Slides need to communicate.  They need to help you make your point.  Steve Jobs did it with one or two words on a slide and spectacular photography.  My guess is that you don’t have the same art department and the same resources to create the perfect visuals for your slides.  Better then to not use any visuals.  All-type slides are fine, as long as you haven’t stuffed each slide with hundreds of words.

PowerPoint made us lazy because we no longer think about what we want to communicate, but how.  The “how” is certainly important but it should come into play after you know what you want to say and why you want to say it to a specific audience.

Unfortunately,  when people are told they have to make a presentation, their knee jerk reaction is to start by building a slide deck.

Instead, let’s start by identifying what your message is to the audience, and how can you best package that message so that it is an obvious benefit to everyone listening, because…the bigger the benefit it is to them, the more they will listen and the more they will respond and the more they will hire your firm.

Ask yourself this question as you begin to think about your presentation.  “When the presentation is over, what one thing do I want the audience to remember after I’m gone?”  Make sure that one thing is a benefit to the audience.  Now package that one thing  – the takeaway  –  into the open and close of the presentation. Use the middle to demonstrate the importance of the takeaway.

DO NOT USE THE POWERPOINT TEMPLATE YET. Sketch out the presentation on paper as you visualize the information being dealt out to the audience. Visualize how the audience reacts to that information. Visualize yourself telling them that information.

When you have the paper version where you want it, start to transfer it to the PPT template.  You don’t need to do it word for word.  Think of a single word or sentence that captures the gist of each major point.

I won’t bore you with all of the rules of effective PowerPoint, but keep the word count low, the font size large, and clip art nonexistent.  If you have strong graphics that truly add to the presentation and demonstrate the point you are making, by all means use them.  If they are really strong, they probably don’t need any other thing on the screen but the picture.  If you still have to add words to the slide, perhaps the graphic isn’t as strong as you thought.

Try to stick to Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule.  No more than 10 slides, presented in 20 minutes.  The font size on the slides is at least 30 point type.

Consider opening your presentation with a black screen.  The reason this is effective is because when slides are on the screen, the audience looks at the screen.  When the screen is black, the audience looks at the presenter.  What a great opportunity to connect with the audience and deliver your opening.  Likewise in the close, go to a black screen again and sum up your presentation, then go back to the slides to ask for some action step.  Most remote control slide changers have a button that allows you to go to a black screen.  If not, simply hit the letter “B” on your keyboard and the screen goes black.

Finally, have a vanity monitor in the room so you can see the PowerPoint without turning around after each slide to see where you are.  This will make you appear to be in complete control of the presentation, which in turn will make you look confident.  People tend to agree with others who they think are confident.

Put your energy into the content and into identifying what the audience values.  Don’t spend too much time on the PowerPoint.  The less you use, the stronger it becomes.

Check out my web site for lots more PowerPoint suggestions, including these:



Your Most Important PowerPoint Slide

When creating PowerPoint slides for your next presentation, remember that the most important slide is the second slide. The first slide is usually the title, but the second slide should be the takeaway slide. It is the slide that makes the single point you hope the audience will remember when the presentation is over.

Most people have a creative sensibility that hurts them when making a presentation. They like to lead up to the main point in a dramatic way, carefully laying each brick of the foundation in place and then revealing the big idea to the audience. The problem is that it’s hard to get people in the audience to stay focused for more than a minute or so before their minds start wandering. It’s really important to get to the main idea, the takeaway, within a minute or so.

The main idea is called The Takeaway.  There are a few tests to determine what the real Takeaway of your presentation is.  Here are two ways to test for a Takeaway:

-Ask yourself, if I could have the audience talk about one idea that I presented what would it be?  That’s the takeaway.

-The Takeaway works better when it is packaged as a benefit for the people you are presenting to. What is the benefit to the audience of the one thing you want them to remember?  If you are selling shovels, for example, and you have a new wide mouth shovel with an ergonomic handle, you’ll be tempted to say that the Takeaway is that your company now has a super sized shovel. But, the benefit to the audience might be that their employees can now dig more stuff easier and faster than ever before, making each of their laborers a lot more efficient and effective.  That’s the Takeaway.  The benefit to the audience.

The other value of making the second slide the takeaway slide is that it starts to drive the flow of the presentation in a focused way. Using the shovel example above, if the second slide is the Takeaway as discussed then that sets up the middle of the presentation.  How do we make your employees more efficient and what new tools have we developed? What science do we have behind the new tools that vouch for their efficiency?  What data can we show to demonstrate that an average shovelful of stuff previously held 20 pounds of stuff and the new shovel holds 30 pounds of stuff? What tests do we have that show a typical laborer using the new shovel saves 4.7 minutes for every 100 pounds of stuff he shovels?

Everything follows a straight line from the second slide through the rest of the presentation.

Closing the presentation do a fast summary of all of the data covered and come back to a slide similar to #2.  Remind the client how easily they can change the dynamics of their production by using this new shovel.

You have now started your presentation and ended it with the same theme. You’ve used the middle of the presentation to demonstrate it.  It’s all very focused. When you leave the room the only thing they will talk about is how this new shovel will grow their business.twitterredditpinterestlinkedintwitterredditpinterestlinkedin