Tips for Making an Effective PowerPoint Presentations

Tips for Making Effective PowerPoint Presentations

1.      Use the slide master feature to create a consistent and simple design template.  It is fine to vary the content presentation (i.e. bulleted list, 2-column text, text & image), but be consistent with other elements such as font, colors, and background.

2.      Simplify and limit the number of words on each screen.  Use key phrases and include only essential information.

3.      Limit punctuation and avoid putting words in all capital letters. Empty space on the slide will enhance readability.

4.      Use contrasting colors for text and background.  Dark text on a light background is best.  Patterned backgrounds can reduce readability of text.

5.      Avoid the use of flashy transitions such as text fly-ins.  These features may seem impressive at first, but are distracting and get old quickly.

6.      Overuse of special effects such as animation and sounds may make your presentation “cutesy” and could negatively impact your credibility.

7.      Use good quality images that reinforce and complement your message. Ensure that your images maintain their impact and resolution when projected on a larger screen.

8.      If you use builds, have content appear on the screen in a consistent, simple manner; from the top or left is best.  Only “build” screens when necessary to make your point because they can slow your presentation.

9.      Limit the number of slides.  Presenters who constantly “flip” to the next slide are likely to lose their audience.  A good rule of thumb is one slide per minute.

10.     Learn to navigate your presentation in a non-linear fashion. PowerPoint allows the presenter to jump ahead or back without having to page through all the interim slides.

11.     Know how to and practice moving forward AND backward within your presentation.  Audiences often ask to see the previous screen again.

12.     If possible, view your slides on the screen you’ll be using for your presentation.  Make sure they are readable from the back row seats.  Text and graphics should be large enough to read, but not so large as to appear “loud.”

13.     Have a Plan B in the event of technical difficulties.  Remember that transparencies and handouts will not show animation or other special effects.

14.     Practice with someone who has never seen your presentation.  Ask them for honest feedback about colors, content, and any effects or graphics you’ve included.

15.     Do not read from your slides.  The content of your slides is for the audience, not for the presenter.

16.     Do not speak to your slides.  Many presenters face the direction of their presentation rather than their audience.

17.     Do not apologize for anything in your presentation.  If you believe something will be hard to read or understand, don’t use it.

18.     When possible, run your presentation from the hard disk rather than a floppy disk.  Running from a floppy disk may slow your presentation.

Some technical Tips:



  • Select sans-serif fonts such as Arial or Helvetica.  Avoid serif fonts such as Times New Roman or Palatino as they are sometimes more difficult to read.
  • Use no font size smaller than 24 point.
  • Clearly label each screen.  Use a larger font (35-45 points) or different color for the title.
  • Use a single sans-serif font for most of the presentation.  Use different colors, sizes and styles (bold, underline) for impact.
  • Avoid italicized fonts as they are difficult to read quickly.
  • No more than 6-8 words per line
  • For bullet points, use the 6 x 6 Rule.  One thought per line with no more than 6 words per line and no more than 6 lines per slide
  • Use dark text on light background or light text on dark background.  However, dark backgrounds sometimes make it difficult for some people to read the text. 
  • Do not use all caps except for titles.


To test the font, stand back six feet from the monitor and see if you can read the slide.

 Graphics and Design 

  • Keep the background consistent and subtle.
  • Use only enough text when using charts or graphs to explain clearly label the graphic.
  • Keep the design clean and uncluttered.  Leave empty space around the text and graphics
  • Use quality clipart and use it sparingly.  The graphic should relate to and enhance the topic of the slide.
  • Try to use the same style graphics throughout the presentation (e.g. cartoon, photographs)
  • Limit the number of graphics on each slide.
  • Check all graphics on a projection screen before the actual presentation.
  • Avoid flashy graphics and noisy animation effects unless they relate directly to the slide. 
  • Limit the number of transitions used.  It is often better to use only one so the audience knows what to expect.



  • Limit the number of colors on a single screen.
  • Bright colors make small objects and thin lines stand out.  However, some vibrant colors are difficult to read when projected.
  • Use no more than four colors on one chart.
  • Check all colors on a projection screen before the actual presentation.  They may project differently than what appears on the monitor.

 General Presentation 

  • Check the spelling and grammar.
  • Do not read the presentation.  Practice the presentation so you can speak from bullet points.  The text should be a cue for the presenter rather than a message for the viewer.
  • Give a brief overview at the start.  Then present the information.  Finally review important points.
  • It is often more effective to have bulleted points appear one at a time so the audience listens to the presenter rather than reading the screen.
  • Use a wireless mouse or pick up the wired mouse so you can move around as you speak.
  • If sound effects are used, wait until the sound has finished to speak.
  • If the content is complex, print out the slides so the audience can take notes.
  • Do not turn your back on the audience.  Try to position the monitor so you can speak from it.

About the author

Imroz Baig wrote 95 articles for Techstarz.

He is one of the founder members of Techstarz. He holds an engineering degree in computer science and an mba in systems. Imroz is based in mumbai and works for a privately owned software development firm. He blogs at techstarz and his personal blog at

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One Response to “Tips for Making an Effective PowerPoint Presentations”

  1. Deena says:

    This piece was cnoegt, well-written, and pithy.

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