5 Tips for Powerful Presentations

So you’ve just been asked to whip together a PowerPoint presentation to keep your colleagues up to date on your latest product line. Do you:

    a. Cram each slide with as much information as you can fit on it because you don’t want to leave anything out?
    b. Make sure the words on the slides are exactly the words you plan to say?
    c. Keep your slide text brief, and use it only to highlight key points of your presentation?

If you said “c,” you’re off to a great start. If you said “a” or “b,” or worse, are guilty of “a” or “b,” we have to talk.

The problem with “a” and “b” boils down to this: People can’t read and listen at the same time. So if you plan to put more than a few words on a slide, you’ll need to choose whether you want people to read the slide or listen to you. Unfortunately, you can’t have both.

Here are a few additional tips to help you create PowerPoint presentations that pack a punch.

Blessed are the brief

You know that look, the one where an audience’s eyes glaze over as a presenter displays a wall of text and reads every word. Perhaps there’s a lot to cover, but there’s a better way to do it than by bombarding your viewers with information.

To make your presentation more impactful, start with length. A good guideline for determining how long (and dense) your presentation should be is the 10-20-30 rule, which originates from tech evangelist Guy Kawasaki. He says your PowerPoint should:

  • Contain no more than 10 slides
  • Last no more than 20 minutes
  • Use no less than 30-point type

That last guideline is designed to help you gauge how much text should go on each slide, but that actually allows for quite a bit of text. Consider breaking it up with subheads, appropriate images or videos, and white space.

The 10-20-30 rule has been around for a while, but it still holds up, helping people create better, more effective presentations.

Use images wisely

Charts and graphs should be easy to understand and quickly illustrate the point of your speech. You don’t want your audience sitting there with knitted brows trying to figure out what those shapes and numbers mean.

Photos and videos need to make an impact and evoke an emotional response, or at least interest, if you want your presentation to be compelling.

Appropriate photos and art can also help break up text and support your information. (Be sure to lose the random, irrelevant stock photos and clip art.) Adding videos and animations can give your audience a break from reading and make your presentation more engaging. It’s well worth your time to learn how to insert them. You’ll find plenty of tutorials online.

Tell stories

Just as you would with copywriting, use stories to capture the attention of your audience and bring your point home. For instance, break up the facts and figures of your presentation by creating customer personas. Tell tales that show what their lives are like, what kinds of related problems they’re facing, and how your product helps them. With good stories, your audience will better understand and remember your presentation.

Create a handout

When you’re delivering a presentation, certain people will want to write down every word. If they do so, they won’t really be listening to you and grasping the main ideas you’re trying to convey. To solve this problem, tell your audience right off the bat that they don’t have to take notes because you’ll have a handout with the main points to give them after the presentation. (Don’t plan on giving it to people before or during the presentation because they’ll want to sit there reading it and, again, won’t be listening to you.)

Many presenters just send the PowerPoint deck to everyone after the meeting, but often these presenters don’t include speaker notes, at least not for all the slides. This may leave the PowerPoint recipients trying to fill in gaps, either by remembering what you said or figuring out what you meant by the limited content on your slides. Instead, it shouldn’t take that long to summarize your key points on a one-page Word doc or PDF that your audience can easily reference. If you’re able, give the handout a nice layout with images to make it more readable and improve audience recall.


Remember: You are the presenter. So present! That doesn’t mean looking up at your presentation on the screen and reading every word of your slides or bombarding your audience with less-than-interesting data. Rather, you’ll want to make eye contact with people and have an actual conversation where you tell them something that’s not on your slides. Give them plenty of opportunities to ask questions and interact with you and other participants. By the end of your presentation, your audience won’t just leave with a solid understanding of your material; they may also have a more enjoyable experience. And the next time you send them a meeting invitation, they won’t be rolling their eyes in anticipation of “another boring PowerPoint presentation.” Instead, they’ll be eager to find out what you have to say and how you plan to say it.

By ETMG Social Media Team