5 Rules for More Effective Presentations

Presentation software can be a wonderful tool if used correctly. It can also be a dangerous distraction that interferes with communication rather than facilitating it. The line between the two is thin.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/mbbirdy, Image #4746463

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/mbbirdy

Over the course of my career, I have sat through hundreds of presentations. Most of them were done with PowerPoint. Most of them are done poorly.

I often think the presenter would be more compelling if he would ditch the presentation software and just speak. Because of this, I even thought of outlawing presentation software when I was the CEO of Thomas Nelson.

But alas, It has become a staple of corporate life. It is the ubiquitous prop that attends every presentation.

So if we can’t outlaw presentation software, at least we can improve how we use it. Here are my five rules for making more effective presentations.

  1. Don’t give your presentation software center stage. This is the biggest mistake I see speakers make. They forget that PowerPoint or Keynote are tools designed to augment their presentation not be their presentation.

    Never forget: You are the presenter. Your message should be the focus. Not your slides. Not your props. And not your handouts. You are in the lead role, and you need to retain that role.

    No amount of “razzle dazzle” or slide effects can overcome a weak presentation. If you don’t do your job, slides won’t save you. It only makes a bad presentation worse.

  2. Create a logical flow to your presentation. Better yet, tell a story. (See Cliff Atkinson’s Beyond Bullet Points. The absolute last thing you want to do is turn your presentation into a random assortment of bulleted lists, which is what often happens, especially when PowerPoint is involved. There must be a flow.

    Start with a good outlining or mind mapping program. I personally use OmniOutliner. Decide if your talk is going to be a persuasive speech or an enabling one. (It should be one or the other.) We teach you how to do this at The SCORRE Conference. This is something I use every day.

  3. Make your presentation readable. Memorize this sentence: “If people can’t read my slides from the back of the room, my type is too small.” Now repeat it over and over again while you create your slides. If people are squinting during your presentation, trying to make out what’s on the slide, you’ve lost your audience.

    In my experience you must use at least 30-point type. Obviously, it depends on the size of the room, the size of the screen, etc. This is precisely why you can’t afford to leave this to chance. You must test your slides and make certain they are readable.

    In Really Bad PowerPoint (PDF file), Seth Godin also sets forth five PowerPoint rules. In the first one he says, “No more than six words on a slide. EVER.” This may be too extreme, but you get the idea. The more words you use, the less readable they become.

    I have made some really effective presentations with no more than a word or two per slide. It can be done. Steve Jobs was a master at this. So is Tom Peters.

    Here are some other things to remember regarding text:

    • Avoid paragraphs or long blocks of text. If you really, really must use a paragraph, then whittle it down to the bare essentials. Use an excerpt—a couple of sentences. Emphasize the important words. Put the text block by itself on a single slide.
    • Use appropriate fonts. I recommend a sans serif font for titles (e.g., Arial, Verdana, Helvetica, or—my personal favorite—Myriad Pro, etc.) and a serif font for bullets or body text (e.g., Times New Roman, Garamond, Goudy, Palatino, etc.). Most books are typeset this way because it make them more readable. The serifs help you recognize the characters (and thus the words) faster. It makes the text more readable. It’s also customary to use san serif fonts for chart labels.
    • Avoid detailed reports. If you need to include a report in your presentation, hand it out. Don’t force people to try to read a ledger printout on a slide. (Financial people take note!) If you must show a report, use it as a picture and then use a “call out” to emphasize the part of the report you want people to focus on. Better yet, just fill up a whole slide with the one number you want people to take away from the presentation.
    • Avoid “title capitalization” unless (duh!) it’s a title. Sentence capitalization is much easier to read. For example, “Sales are up 100% in the southeast region” is easier than “Sales Are Up 100% In The Southeast Region.” This is especially true when you have numerous bullet points.
  4. Remember, less is more. Fancy slide transitions and fly-ins get old quickly. I strongly recommend that you keep things simple. A basic dissolve from one slide to another is usually sufficient.

    Also, have all your bullets appear at once rather than one at a time. Avoid sound effects—they serve no other purpose than annoying the audience and distracting them from your presentation.

    Finally, cut down the number of slides. You don’t need a transcript of your speech with every point and sub-point. Yawn! People are only going to remember the major points any way.

  5. Distribute a handout. I have changed my mind on this over the years. I do not think that you should distribute a handout before you begin speaking.

    If you do so, people will start reading ahead instead of listening to you. It’s just one more distraction to keep them from focusing on your message. It also eliminates any surprises or drama you have built into your presentation.

    Instead, I tell people that I will distribute a handout of the slides when I am finished with my presentation. (Or now, I often create a special page on my blog, with the slides embedded into it using SlideShare.net.) That way, they can take notes during my session, knowing that they don’t have to write everything down. This allows them to stay engaged without becoming distracted.

Finally, I would encourage you to hone your PowerPoint or Keynote skills like you would any other essential business skill. The more you work at it, the better you will get. And the better you get the more compelling your presentations will become.

Question: What rules would you add? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Get My New, 3-Part Video Series—FREE! Ready to accomplish more of what matters? 2015 can be your best year ever. In my new video series, I show you exactly how to set goals that work. Click here to get started. It’s free—but only until Monday, December 8th.

Get my FREE video series now!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt


    You definitely need to start a blog. You have such a contrarian viewpoint, I think you would readily find an audience!


  • http://www.studiosmith.blogspot.com Barry A. Smith

    I think Pete’s comments would have been best communicated through a Powerpoint presentation, with, perhaps, bullets (I kid, I kid.)

  • http://thecollegekid.wordpress.com theCollegeKid

    “I tell people that I will distribute a handout of the slides when I am finished with my presentation.”


    Thanks for the pointers (a pun, I couldn’t help it), especially the one on giving out the handout at the end of the presentation. I only wish more college kids (and prof’s) would read this, it would make in-class presentations much more interesting.

  • http://rolandmann.wordpress.com Roland Mann

    “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.”

    This is exactly what I tell my students in English Composition (Freshman Comp by another name), and it is the perfect skeleton outline for remembering the five paragraph essay!

  • Matt

    A manager at SAS (the business analytics/software company) once said at the beginning of a presentation of his that I attended: “many of those who use PowerPoint have either no power, or no point”. I thought this was a great quote! If used well PowerPoint can make a difference (and if not used well it also makes a difference, but one you might not like …). We are all guilty of poor presentations.

    Training, experience, desire to do better, and willingness to think like the participant instead of having the arrogant “they will listen to me” viewpoint all help in having better presentations, as well as scheduling time to pause and then re-read presentation and then shorten it, all help. I keep reminding myself “less is more” and “leave myself something to SAY (verbally)” (otherwise I can just write a book and post it to the participants …).

  • John

    I try to help college faculty redesign their PPTs for use in classes. It is quite a chore and the problem isn't the tool (PPT in this case) it is the presenter and they way they have chosen to provide info to their students. Imagine a 3 hour long class that has slide after slide full of 10-12 bullet points on EACH SLIDE! This is what they (instructors here) know and they don't want to change.

    Many of the problems with bad presentations are not strictly as a result of use of PPT or Keynote. Rather, I see these bad presentations as a result of a series of missteps in preparing for the show (poor design choices, trying to cram too much info into slides, distracting colors, small fonts, etc.). PPT is not to blame because the presenter choose to use a script font at 30 point. Someone had to click it and apply it to the slide. Same is true of color use, random graphics, etc.

  • John

    End of my comment above:

    We will all still use the same tool, but we need to learn how to appropriately and effectively use the tool. Again, the tool is not the problem; the presenter is (same is true of the college professors I try to assist here). If they didn't present 10-12 bullets per slide using PPT to their classes, they'd be doing it with an overhead projector instead.

  • Pingback: Give a Better Technical Presentation « Young Engineer()

  • Sarah Walston

    THANK YOU!!! I have to give a major group presentation in my Tech. Writing class in 2 wks. Haven't had to do one in 10 yrs…. SWEET TIPS

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/chrishuff chrishuff

    Thanks to your twitter post mentioning this old article. In my best high school cheerleader voice…"like, OMG, that Seth Godin guy is so right on with his powerpoint book thingy. I read that once and like ever since, my ppt files have been just kickin in during my mondo presentations."

    wow, I think I've had too much coffee today.

    I explain powerpoint like this – use charts and graphs if necessary…but it's better to show a slide with a photo of a starving child than the numbers in each country. Slides give you the ability to get the emotional appeal. You could show a chart with numbers, but get that photo in their as well.

  • http://jonstolpe.wordpress.com Jon Stolpe

    This is a great subject for me this week.  I am taking a two day presentation course at the end of this week required for all managers in our company.  It will be interesting to see how this topic is covered in the class.

    As I was thinking about the topic, I would add this…don’t over animate.  Many of the gadgets that seem so slick in today’s presentation software can often get in the way of getting your point across.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Agreed, Jon.

      • Sanaali

        its too difficult i  cant understand it

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      I agree with your point, Jon about animation. Though over-animation is a snag, animation is effective. Yesterday while doing a presentation on “transformation”, I used an animated image of a butterfly. More than I anticipated, that helped the audience understand the value of a robust life!

      • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

        That would have been a great image!

        • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon


        • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham


      • http://jonstolpe.wordpress.com Jon Stolpe

        Used effectively, animation can be great!  Overused ineffectively, animation detracts from the overall presentation.

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      To magnify this point, keep your slide transitions consistent. I know that PPT and Keynote offer a huge buffet of whiz-bang transitions, but it is most effective to stick with one (preferably a subtle one). The explosions can be frightening…

      Only deviate from your slide transition of choice if it serves amplify your message.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        I like using a simple dissolve for 90% of the slides. The only time I use something different is to signal that I am moving to a new section or the next point.

        • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

          Me too!

        • http://twitter.com/burlw Burl Walker

          And having watched you present on occasion, I appreciate that Michael!

          • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

            I have yet to see Mr. Hyatt present something. Hopefully, I will be able to make it to one event…

          • http://jonstolpe.wordpress.com Jon Stolpe

            I agree.  This would be a great experience.

        • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

          Dissolve is cool. I also like to add crazy effects as well!

        • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

          I agree with that.

      • http://bentheredothat.com Ben Patterson

        Yes, I totally agree!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree. If it doesn’t serve the message, don’t use it.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      All the bells and whistles not only distract the audience, but it can also interfere with adequate preparation. I’ve made the mistake of spending far more time on my slides than practicing the actual presentation. No one cared how slick my slides were as I bombed my talk!

      • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

        This is a great reminder. Thanks!

      • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

        Well said. The actual talk has to be in order first…

    • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

      That is so true! We can get excited about all the new features and then we overuse them and the real purpose of our presentation is hidden among what should just been tools to drive home the message.

    • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

      Yes!  Please do not over animate.  Especially the cheesy “clip art” looking objects. 

      • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

        Right on , Tim.  Cheesy “clip art” …   That’s a distraction, at best, and something that loses the audience completely, at worst!

    • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

      Awesome! What kind of company do you work for?

      • http://jonstolpe.wordpress.com Jon Stolpe

        I’m an operations manager for a building technologies company – one of the biggest companies in the world.

        • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

          Awesome! Are they based out of your city?

          • http://jonstolpe.wordpress.com Jon Stolpe

            No, the company is a world-wide company based in Germany.  The company has a huge presence in the US though.  I’ve worked for them (in some form or another) for 16 years.

          • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

            Oh wow! That’s very cool!


    • http://jonstolpe.wordpress.com Jon Stolpe

      Here’s a great video that was shown in my presentation class yesterday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbSPPFYxx3o&feature=like-suggest&list=UL

      The video is by Don McMillan and is titled Life After Death by Powerpoint.

      Well worth the 4 minutes!

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patti-Schieringa/100000060620784 Patti Schieringa

         Thanks Jon for the video. It demonstrates a rule I was going to suggest. 
        The presenter makes eye contact with the audience. I’ve been in many power point meetings. In several of those mandated power points the presenter related to the screen rather than to the audience. Also,  I feel patronized when the speaker reads the presentation to us that is  on the screen and/ or in our hands.

  • http://twitter.com/RenaissanceKate Kate Hash

    I was on a hiring committee at my last office job and we had whittled the candidates down to three. Two candidates gave what would have been OK presentations if they hadn’t totally mangled them with bad PowerPoint. The third gave an amazing, clear presentation that followed a lot of the rules you discuss above. Not only was the presentation great, but we — his future colleagues — felt like this would be a manager we’d like to work with and for: clear, concise and knows his stuff. No surprise who got the job!

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      Thanks for your comment Kate.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Most people underestimate the attractiveness of a clear, concise message.

      • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

        I want to add in two more C’s to your point.  Compelling and catalytic.  Thanks. 

        • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

          You clearly comprehend the catalytic quality of clear and concise communication …

          (I think I should get bonus points. ;-))

    • http://bentheredothat.com Ben Patterson

      Great story, thanks for sharing!

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    Also, words on the screen give a presentation a sort of high-schooly feel, as if the speaker were my teacher and I was supposed to remember his main points for a test. That alone turns me off to blackboards and PowerPoint except to show graphics and images, for pictures say more than 1,000 words. But if something can be put into simple language, I really don’t need to read on the screen what the speaker is saying anyway. 

    • Jim Martin

      Cyberquill, this is a good reminder about the power of images, pictures, and graphics.  Good images are far more memorable that seeing many words on a slide.  Thanks.

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      I’ve seen a few Seth Godin presentations online that are only pictures.

    • Rachel Lance

      You make a great point that could almost act as a couple different filters for whether or not a slide is necessary: is the slide nothing more than a “test review” & is the slide just an over-simplified version of the script. If the answer is yes to either then the slide is likely not necessary.

    • Coke

      Not only does a picture paint a thousand words but most importantly the learner/audience has much better odds of remembering what you were teaching and retaining the information by association especially when you are facilitating mandatory training specific to a learner’s job….we all know how difficult it can be to remember policies, procedures, regulations etc….and make that fun and memorable. Simple wins!

  • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

    I find that the worse presentations are the ones where the speaker simply reads the slide. I feel like I am in the 3rd grade and a substitute teacher is reading me a story. They are just there for the paycheck. In order to communicate effectively, we first have to believe in what we are saying.

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      I totally agree with you, Jeremy! Slides are not meant to be read but to reveal something.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I have sat through tons of these kids of presentations, especially on Wall Street.

    • http://www.touchtheskye.org Chris MacKinnon

      I worked with a pastor who would read four or five slides of Bible text from the screen each week. Ouch. I only put references with key phrases from text, point headers, and sometimes a sentence that is really important.

      • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

        That is what our Pastor does and it is very effective.  

        • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

          Same here…

    • http://twitter.com/burlw Burl Walker

      Amen Jeremy! May I add that pages full of statistics can be frustrating. After the first few, the percentages and numbers all blend together.

      • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

        I’m glad you pointed this out, Burl. When it comes to statistics or similar information, it’s typically best to choose the most powerful one or two and leave the rest. More is not more. It just dilutes the influence.

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      I know!  I hate presentations like this!

    • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

      I had a teacher in college who would do this. He would even get students to read the long paragraphs for him. Mostly they were quotes from a book we were already reading for the class. I dazed out a lot.

      • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

        Oh man.  As soon as I hear someone ask the audience to read a long description, scripture or paragraph I am automatically checked out!

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patti-Schieringa/100000060620784 Patti Schieringa

        I looked twice at the sentence, I dazed a lot. It’s more fitting than I dozed a lot.
         I dozed once in religion class and almost fell off  my seat.

    • http://bentheredothat.com Ben Patterson

      For real! If you’re simply going to read then send a memo or post it to a bulletin board.

  • http://www.blogbysuchitra.wordpress.com Suchitra Mishra

    Hello Michael,

    Thank you for the great post and especially
    all the resources that you have provided in the article. As a sub-text to your
    point no. 1, I would like to propose the reminder that “it is not about you”
    however much the temptation maybe to talk/present about yourself. The idea is
    to address the topic and your message on the topic. Additional data about you,
    your company or your references should go into the handouts.

    I would also love to know your
    views on writing business proposals, I have penned a few of my thoughts here – http://blogbysuchitra.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/five-pointers-to-creating-winning-business-proposals/



    • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

      Great point.  I find it very acceptable if the presenter wants to promote his professional services or products via handouts or a final slide once the presentation is complete.  

  • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

    I like designing presentation slides! That’s something I love doing. So these 5 rules are very much helpful. Thanks Michael!

    I would also like to add about the color of the font. Unless you are presenting something that has a  ‘festive’ mood, it is beneficial to go for a color combination that majors on black. It helps words to be more visible and readable.

    Also, try to bring in a harmonious color blend between the template and fonts. It works better with shades of a dominant single color or double color.

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      Thanks for discussing color. The background your choose for your presentation is critical. In general, if you pick a template, don’t mess with the font colors or typefaces that come with it. The folks who created the templates know a thing or two about design. Particularly in the newer releases of PPT, the templates are pretty solid.

      That said, if you feel adventurous and would like to design your own, use a site like Colour Lovers. The color palettes on the site are awesome. I use it for inspiration for each one of my projects.

      • Edwin Sarmiento

        Color palettes play a very important role in the design of the slides. A section of Nancy Duarte’s book slide:ology is dedicated for this topic. Consider the use of appropriate colors depending on the industry you are presenting to. An understanding of the use of RGB values to create the colors you want helps a lot.

        • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh


      • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

        Thanks Jason for the Color Lovers link. I’ll check it out.

        • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

          No problem.

      • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

        Great link.  Thanks Jason. 

        • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

          No problem.

    • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

      This is a great point! Black is easier to read and more professional. It complements what you are trying to do as a presenter. 

    • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

      I don’t like designing them, but I like presenting…

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patti-Schieringa/100000060620784 Patti Schieringa

      Good point. Some people cannot see color. If you like to liven up a poster, outline letters in black. And, different colored letters slow down  reading.

      • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

        That’s true, Patti!

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    We need to give special concentration to our opening and closing. It is important to work meticulously on the opening and it is equally important to finish strong. Mike, as you have always advised, we need to ‘nail our closing’. The opening and closing is the first thing (sometimes it is the only thing!!!) people will remember when they think of our presentation. And, as a presenter, everyone will desire to go out with a bang not a whimper.

    • Jim Martin

      Uma, this is a very good and important reminder.  Thanks.

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        It’s my pleasure Jim!

        Subject: [mhyatt] Re: 5 Rules for More Effective Better Presentations

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      Great point. People have a hard time closing the “loop”. A lot of presentations end up looking like horseshoes…

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        True Jason! It’s the similar lesson they teach to fictional authors/ novelists and movie script writers. It is important how we close the story with the engaging climax.

        Subject: [mhyatt] Re: 5 Rules for More Effective Better Presentations

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree. Often times we struggle with the closing, because we don’t have a singular call to action. In other words, we haven’t articulate for ourselves what we want our listeners to take away from oir presentation. We have to get clear on that first.

    • http://twitter.com/burlw Burl Walker

      I definitely need to work on my closings! Thanks for that reminder! The last presentation went well for me until as I was closing, the person in the back of the room signaled that I needed to stretch it out as the next presenter was going to be a couple minutes….I tried…and failed miserably!

      • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

        I think the closing is the single most difficult part of any presentation. I’ve failed miserably more times than I’d like to admit. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Most people fail in their closing by going on and on and on and on … At least you finished early, right? ;)

        • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

          Burl or Michele – Do you have any tips on closing a presentation?  

          • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

            Practice, practice, practice. Not very profound, but truly the best way to develop a powerful conclusion. As far as nuts and bolts, a closing can be a quote, story, question, call to action, recap of the main points of the presentation, prayer or a number of other possibilities. Most people spend hours developing the body of their presentation, but little or no time on the closing. They mistakenly assume they can do it intuitively, on the fly, like landing a plane with eyes closed. More times than not they crash and burn. At least that’s been my experience. :)

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            I totally agree Michele! Good stuff.

          • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

            That is really good stuff. I try to incorporate some level of practical application in my closing. I am trying to answer the “so what” question. So what does this your presentation REALLY mean to me as I am about to walk out into the real world. To some degree I am creatively re-packaging portions of what I have already said, but I want people to leave feeling like there is a practical and reachable next step or practice. What do you think?

          • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

            I absolutely agree. If you don’t answer the “so what?” your message has no staying power. Ideally, the “so what?” should be answered toward the beginning of your talk to some extent. That’s how you hook them to listening in at all. But the closing is where you really drive it home. I also loved your “repackaging” comment. The closing is exactly that — reminding your audience of what you just presented in a way that’s memorable.

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        Just go on Burl. When you are intentional and persistent, you will do it right the next time.

        Subject: [mhyatt] Re: 5 Rules for More Effective Better Presentations

    • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

      I always have a difficult time with closings. I often spend much time on them to make sure I nail it down.

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        Agreed Brandon! I too feel that spending more time will yield positive results.

        Subject: [mhyatt] Re: 5 Rules for More Effective Better Presentations

    • http://bentheredothat.com Ben Patterson

      For sure, Uma! The first and last sentences of a message should always be memorized.

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        Yup! Agreed Ben! At times, I find it difficult to close properly.

        Subject: [mhyatt] Re: 5 Rules for More Effective Better Presentations

  • http://charlielyons.ca Charlie Lyons

    Keep colours in mind. DON’T EVER use contrasting colours for text/background in ANY slide EVER (i.e. red letters on blue background).

    [End rant. :)]

    Thanks, Michael, for the insights. Excellent reminders here.

    • Jim Martin

      Charlie, good reminder regarding the use of contrasting colors.  Helpful advice.  Slides like this can really be distracting to someone listening to a presentation.

      • http://charlielyons.ca Charlie Lyons

        Distracting to say the least, Jim. :)

  • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

    Try to to stick to the CRAP principles when designing your next presentation slide deck. If you think about these while creating your presentation, I promise it will take your work to the next level.





    This article does a credible job discussing the principles and how to use them.

    • http://bentheredothat.com Ben Patterson

      That’s crap! ;)

      • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon


      • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

        You stole my line, ha!

        • http://bentheredothat.com Ben Patterson

          It was a sitting duck ;)

    • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon


  • Paula Petty

    I would like to add three:  Don’t read off of the screen–turning around and looking–I see too many doing this. Second, a powerpoint should complement what you are saying. Don’t just read the slides. Third, watch the colors. Orange on purple is harder to read than you think.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I have another rule that I didn’t include here: keep your eyes on the audience. Never turn around on look at your slides. If you have practiced, have a monitor, and done an equipment check before you speak, it should never be necessary. Thanks.

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman


    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Great additions, Paula. Turning around breaks connection with the audience. And the audience is far more important than the slides.

    • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

      These are great! Thanks.

    • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

      Completely agree on not reading screens.  Another reason to have less slides! 

  • http://www.timemanagementninja.com Craig Jarrow

    Great tips, Michael!

    Here is a trick I learned a long time ago to test the readability of your slides…

    Print your slides (1 slide per page).

    While standing, drop your slides on the floor. 

    If you can read them… your audience should be able to read them from the back of the room.

    • http://twitter.com/burlw Burl Walker

      How tall are you? Just kidding! That is a great way to check your font size!

    • http://bentheredothat.com Ben Patterson

      Super tip. Thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

      Craig, great tips.  

  • http://www.touchtheskye.org Chris MacKinnon

    One rule I have is “Don’t spend more time on the presentation than preparing the talk.” As a pastor, I have seen colleagues spend a whole day searching the internet for funny or interesting pictures, resizing them just, playing with fonts, etc. For me, I spend an hour or two creating a template for each series, and then just add text each week.

    Another rule I hope to implement someday is, “Leave the visuals to the visual people.” As an assistant pastor in a previous church, part of my portfolio was art and graphics. I offered countless times to help the pastor with his presentations, always to be told that he enjoyed spending all of the extra time on it. Personally, I would rather prime a creative someone to presentation basics (like yours here), provide them with the material to put in, and watch what happens.

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      This is a great rule. Thanks for sharing Chris.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Great rule, Chris. The preparation is the foundation. The PPT or Keynote is the decoration.

    • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

      Wise words…

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    One thing that is a must in a good presentation is a hand held controller. When purchasing one make sure is has a great enough range to reach the computer and that it will work with your particular machine (Mac or PC) and software (Powerpoint or Keynote). Run through your presentation a few times in the room you will be giving it, and make sure there are no snags. This ensures that your laptop or iPad will connect to the projector and that any media (video, flash, music) will play properly.

    The best feature of a good controller is the black screen feature. This allows you to blank the screen at any time during your presentation. This has the immediate effect of bringing the focus back to you. Use this key often, when you want to hammer home a point.

    If you want to know what happens when you don’t follow these simple suggestions you can read about my presentation disaster here. http://goals4u.us/uhfoOR

    • http://www.touchtheskye.org Chris MacKinnon

      This was my favorite new gadget of 2011. It takes out the variable of “will someone else know when to show the slide?” If you are using notes, it helps to mark where to change your slide. I use a “play” or “next” triangle in orange highlighter.

      Also, you don’t have to pay a lot to get one of these. I picked mine up for $15 at Wal-Mart.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

      This is GREAT, and I would only add one comment to your hand held controller thoughts. DON’T LEAVE THE USB SIGNAL RECEIVER IN SOMEONE ELSE’S COMPUTER! ha. It makes it a lot harder to use it the next time you need it! Maybe I’m the only one! ha.

  • Edwin Sarmiento

    Resources from Nancy Duarte (slide:ology and Resonate) and Garr Reynolds (Presentation Zen) help make better presentations. These resources should be at your disposal if you wish to improve your presentation skills

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree. I have read all their books.

    • http://www.cheriblogs.info Cheri Gregory

      Edwin —

      These books, and Garr and Nancy’s videos (especially Nancy’s TED talk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nYFpuc2Umk ) have revolutionized my thinking and use of presentation software.

      I use their basic concepts with my high school seniors (who, otherwise, demonstrate every possible bad PowerPoint habit…often in the same presentation!)  

      Select “none” for bullet points. Use a consistent simple background: white or black work fine. Aim for picture superiority with a single high-quality evocative image. Tell a story, with an attention-grabbing opening, a sequential middle, and a strong closing that lets the audience know what to DO as a result of listening.

      They rolled their eyes and complained during the creation process. But after several revisions and much practice, they clearly saw the difference between PowerPointless presentations they’d given in the past and the highly effective messages they shared using these resources.

      • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

        I thought her TED talk was AWESOME!

    • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

      I just left a comment about Nancy, Guess I should have read all the comments before suggesting her, huh? Lol. Anyway, I agree with you and I find her blog to be really encouraging as well!

  • http://twitter.com/justbeingstill Kimberly Burton

    I’m curious to know how folks like the presentation software, Prezi. http://www.prezi.com I am a teacher (not exactly the same world as the rest of you), and have been enjoying the use of this site to use in the classroom.  I’ve wondered about using it with adults, but wonder even more about it now because it seems break some of these rules with what seems like animation.  Does anyone have experience  in using it, or have thoughts on this?

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      I’d heard of this, but never followed up after it launched. While still a presentation tool, it is very different from PPT or Keynote. The example presentations I saw were excellent.

    • http://www.cheriblogs.info Cheri Gregory

      Kimberly —

      The first time I saw a Prezi, I got dizzy. All the zooming in and out was more than my GenX brain could handle. But my students LOVE Prezi presentations. Their minds are used to the constant stimulation of constant visual movement.


    • Rachel Lance

      Great question, Kimberly. Prezi is fun and flashy so it needs to be applied judiciously. I ‘t expect it to fit just any audience – I could see many more opportunities to use it when the addressing students rather than older demographics. At the same time, like Cheri said, students love it not only from the audience perspective but also as the producers. It’s definitely not their dads’ powerpoint, so to speak. It’s a great way to get them engaged in a topic and polishing tech skills at the same time. Go for it!

      • http://www.cheriblogs.info Cheri Gregory

        Rachel —

        SO true that students enjoy using Prezi. It’s a great way to brainstorm, mind-map, and cluster their ideas while creating a real product (vs. pen-and-paper which many consider a waste of time.)

    • http://www.touchtheskye.org Chris MacKinnon

      The lesson here is to know your audience and adjust accordingly. I hadn’t heard of this, and am very interested in checking it out for youth and kids. Thanks!

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      Going to check this out…

  • Tom Johnson

    As usual, excellent stuff.  You are a blessing Michael.  Thank  you. 

  • Loren Bruce

    Excellent Article!  For everyone good PowerPoint, I have seen 10 bad ones.  Thanks for the reminder.  Loren

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Me too, Loren. I’ve seen enough bad ones that I rarely use it anymore.

  • Alan Kay

    Great points about presentations. My value-add idea is:

    Find a variety of ways to get the audience engaging with you. For example…
    If the audience are sitting at roundtables I will ask them at the beginning to talk in pairs about this sort of question, ‘Suppose this presentation is useful to you what one thing will be most helpful to you?’ This helps them think of a more conscious personal goal for the talk.
    At the end of a section of the presentation I might ask them to discuss, ‘Thinking of what I’ve just been talking about, what are the key insights that resonate most of all to you?’    
    At the end of the session I will often ask them, ‘Thinking of what worked most of all for you in this talk, what’s the one thing you see yourself doing to make something different happen?’

    Make sure you give them a set time, say, ’90 seconds for each of you talk’. You don’t want them talking for 10 minutes! 
    There’s a lot of information about how people learn in group settings. These questions simply leverage that opportunity.

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      Thanks for putting the topic of audience engagement on the table. Keynote and newer versions of PPT, have the ability to insert countdowns. Might be a cool way to manage the time for your discussion periods.

  • http://iambrians.com/ Brian S

    When I am in the audience, my biggest turnoff is when the presenter looks at the screen and starts reading.  I’ve learned to read, and I would rather receive a URL than come to a meeting to hear someone read their slides.

    I believe it is important to smile periodically to convey confidence and to lead some audience participation to keep people engaged. Unless you are really funny, jokes are a big risk.

    Perhaps most important is to make certain the content is relevant and useful for your audience. 

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Right on Brian.

    • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

      Great point Brian.  

  • http://twitter.com/burlw Burl Walker

    I have tried to follow Seth Godin’s rules for powerpoint and found that they really do help me make better presentations. I have fudged on the no more than 6 words part, but the idea that you don’t want to clutter the page with too much text is important! 7-8 words won’t kill you. Changing slides more often does keep the audience engaged more than just one static slide while you talk for a couple minutes.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      … Unless you’re highly engaging while you talk. I believe that if a speaker needs slides to be engaging, he/she probably shouldn’t be speaking. I agree with the word count — doesn’t matter if it’s 6 words or 8, as long as the chief message is enhanced and not diluted.

      • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

        Plus, you have to make it catchy. People remember great titles.

        • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

          Absolutely. Whether it’s a book or a presentation, you have to earn the attention of your hearer. The first earn is the title.

          • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon


    • http://bentheredothat.com Ben Patterson

      Can’t go wrong with Godin!

  • Nancy

    These are great tips on preparing presentations.  I was a secretary for years and put together too many bad presentations for supervisors. I think they were more interested in reading the presentation to their audience, rather than having to remember their speech.

  • Jeremy Phillips

    Very good.  Do not enjoy sitting through bad presentations. 

  • http://www.cheriblogs.info Cheri Gregory

    Whenever possible, I survey my audience via Constant Contact a week or two prior to the presentation. This way, I learn what are (and aren’t!) hot issues/questions and tailor my message to meet the needs of those who are investing their valuable time and energy to come hear me speak.

    Often, survey respondents add insightful comments that I incorporate into the presentation.  When I say, “As one of you pointed out to me in the survey…” everyone listens. And I’m pointing out that they don’t need to rely on an outside expert; they’ve got amazing collective wisdom within the group.

    Most importantly, reading the survey responses ahead of time helps me get to know my audience members. I feel connected to them well before I arrive.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Interesting idea, Cheri. And a great way to craft your presentation to the needs of your audience. Do you get any push back? With all the emails going out, I’m curious if you’ve received any negative feedback on the survey.

  • Clbutler

    Avoid using dark colors as your background with light color font.  It is extremely difficult for the audience to read.  The watermark—the background image also can be a distraction so be selective of the slide design.

  • http://www.godsabsolutelove.com/ Patricia Zell

    Michael, some of my students are required to give presentations in order to receive credit for their senior English course. They create powerpoints about the topic of their research papers and give a presentation of the powerpoint. This year, I’ve been nudging them beyond reading their slides, some of which have had so much written text (sometimes cut and pasted) that made reading them almost impossible. I am pressing these students towards bullets and towards speaking rather than reading. I’m going to reinforce what I’ve been telling them with pointers from your post. Thanks for writing it!

  • http://www.thadthoughts.com/ Thad P

    Michael:  Excellent tips.  My use of Powerpoint has certainly shifted in recent years.  Less is better is my mantra now (at least in terms of words on a page).  I tend to agree with Seth Godin about that.

    But one dynamic I have encountered in the job I have at The Karis Group is related to presentations given via GoToMeeting or similar service.  I have been a public speaker for two decades, but when you cannot see those you are speaking to, it is hard to read faces…to see if you are actually communicating.

    To overcome that need for feedback, I have been much more intentional about asking questions or building in pauses for questions to be asked (if the group is small enough; obviously if speaking to a very large group the problem is more pronounced, but the tools in GoToMeeting or webinar service allows for asking questions or “raising a hand” via text input.  That is just something I haven’t used.

    I make sure to follow up on any remote presentation by sending a PDF of the content I used, and frequently that is a bit more detailed (i.e. more words) because I still want to communicate after the presentation.

    • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

      Thad, I have faced the same issue with virtual meetings. Good reminder on asking questions to ensure audience engagement. 

  • http://www.thadthoughts.com/ Thad P

    Michael:  Excellent tips.  My use of Powerpoint has certainly shifted in recent years.  Less is better is my mantra now (at least in terms of words on a page).  I tend to agree with Seth Godin about that.

    But one dynamic I have encountered in the job I have at The Karis Group is related to presentations given via GoToMeeting or similar service.  I have been a public speaker for two decades, but when you cannot see those you are speaking to, it is hard to read faces…to see if you are actually communicating.

    To overcome that need for feedback, I have been much more intentional about asking questions or building in pauses for questions to be asked (if the group is small enough; obviously if speaking to a very large group the problem is more pronounced, but the tools in GoToMeeting or webinar service allows for asking questions or “raising a hand” via text input.  That is just something I haven’t used.

    I make sure to follow up on any remote presentation by sending a PDF of the content I used, and frequently that is a bit more detailed (i.e. more words) because I still want to communicate after the presentation.

  • Jan Carlyle

    a-ha! if only I’d read this earlier!  Just delivered a guest lecture at the university!  Think my font may have been a bit small for those at the back. I’m going to revise this for next time.  In my personal experience of inspirational speakers they have always used a photograph of one image that fills the screen (rather than powerpoint).  They use it as a prompt for their presentations and use a maximum of 5. 

  • http://www.authorcynthiaherron.com/ Cynthia Herron

    Since I’m a visual person, I like PowerPoint to a degree, but not when it takes center stage. Your points today are applicable to many things: writing, blogging, speaking, etc. Bells and whistles are dandy to a degree, but they don’t guarantee our full attention.

    I’m curious…what will you use at the ACFW conference in September? (Can’t wait!)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I’m not sure what I will use it. September is a a long way off! I typically use Keynote with single images, words, or just my main points, one per slide. Thanks!

  • Rachel Lance

    There are are so many jokes and groans about bad PowerPoint it’s a wonder anyone wants to take the risk anymore. I’m definitely in the minimalist camp. If a presentation is necessary (I happen to think they rarely are) templates need to be clean and simple with a bit of branding but no distracting backgrounds, colors, fonts, or animations. The slides are a tool to support the speaking, not compete with or distract from it. The best presentation is one which meets an audience need without the audience even noticing.

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    As a minister, I use presentations a lot.  The one rule above I don’t follow is the one about only using 6 words or an excerpt.  I use slides that display a lot of supporting biblical texts, and they usually fill the screen.  I don’t like doing this for everything, especially the main texts.  I prefer that people use their Bibles for that, but when I use a lot of supporting passages, I will show then on the screen.

    And I definitely agree with the rest of your points.  My screen is to the side of the stage, because I want people to focus on me and the message, not the graphics.  I utilize a handheld remote so that I can control when slides appear, and love blank black slides to fill in between my slides, so that people’s attention is returned to what I’m saying.

    And I practice often. 

    Thanks for some great info!

    • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

      I think too often ministers do not use PPT effectively. It is great to hear that you do! 

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        I know!  And it’s hard to sit through a church service where I don’t like their use of PPT.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

      I am with you on the supporting passages.

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        Yeah, there’s just something about the sound of pages turning…

        I thinbk we make it too easy and convenient sometimes.  If people don’t remember to bring a Bible to church, will they remember to read it at home?

  • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

    Here are some of my favorite tips: 1.) Minimal fonts: No more than 3 (2 is usually better) for the entire presentation. 2.) Look for new templates instead of using the ones everyone else uses. 3.) Sometimes, just don’t have the PowerPoint. I think people are sick of them and enjoy simplicity. 4.) Be consistent. Consistent fonts throughout, consistestent transitions throughout, and same color scheme throughout. 5.) Know your presentation. I hate it when people read their presentation. Just tells me they didn’t prepare enough or don’t believe in what they are saying.

    • Jim Martin

      Kari, I read through your four points and really like what you say.  As a person who uses PP regularly, it is so helpful for me to read this post and the comments and reflect on my own use.

      By the way– I like your fifth point in particular.  There is no substitute for really being prepared!

  • Curtis O Fletcher

    Depending on the audience I will sometimes teach presentation creation at the SCORRE conference as part of the business session. My simple rule, borrowed from Guy Kawasaki, is 10,20,30 – no more than ten slides, no more than 20 minutes, no smaller than 30 point font. That leaves a good amount of time for discussion.  :)

    I go back and forth on handouts. I agree though, NEVER before. My problem with handouts is that my presentation is a visual AID. If it can tell the story on its own I am superfluous. I have had people come up to me after presenting in large customer settings and say, “Man that was the best we’ve heard on this topic. Can we get your presentation?” What they don’t seem to realize is that the ‘presentation’ was ALL pictures. Without the storyteller they are close to useless.

    I could go on forever but I won’t. I’ll save it for the conference.  :)

  • Punelope

    Avoid lame jokes. If a joke doesn’t connect with the presentation naturally, leave it out. One real laugh in a presentation is better that any number of courtesy laughs.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Absolutely, Punelope. Humor can be extremely effective in communication, if it furthers the message. If not, it’s merely a useless distraction. Get rid of it.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for another great & informative post! I am so excited, because I will be attending SCORRE for the first time! Can’t wait to see you live. So, please not to many slides! ;)

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      I’m jealous Joyce! The SCORRE conference is terrific and you will come away a better speaker!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Glad to hear you’re coming to the SCORRE Conference, Joyce. I’ll see you there!

  • Dan Morrow

    Love the article. Hate the title. More Effective Better?  : )

    Seriously though, as someone who does not do presentations, but may end up needing to create them for my wife who speaks or for myself who may be speaking soon, I love articles like this one.

    • Jim Martin

      Dan, I agree.  I love posts like this one as well.  In fact, when I began reading it this morning, I knew that I would need to put this one in Evernote and read it again.  As one who regularly makes presentations, I found this to be very helpful.

  • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

    If speaking is your thing and not making the presentations, then outsource that part. It cuts time and allows you to focus on what you are good at. 

  • Mahwwjd

    A recommended read: “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect” – John Maxwell. It is said people would rather die that do public speaking.  I’m learning to connect with my audience and incorporate a relevant story to add value. I love what Abraham Lincoln said, “If I had 6 hrs to cut down a tree, I would spend the first 4hrs sharpening my ax.” Stay sharp and lets add value to our audiences. Thank You, Michael

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      That is an excellent book. John laid down the facts and helps you learn how to connect.

    • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

      Great book! Knowing your material (sharpening your ax) is the key to a good presentation. People forget that it’s the content and how the presenter connects that matters most in a presentation. Focus on making that great rather than focusing on the PowerPoint.

    • http://charlielyons.ca Charlie Lyons

      LOVE the Lincoln quote. I’ve heard it somewhere before but didn’t know who it originated with. Thanks!

    • Jim Martin

      Mahwwjd, thanks for the encouragement to read Maxwell’s book.  It has been on my shelf for a month and I have yet to begin reading it.  Your comment is a good incentive to begin.

  • http://twitter.com/AdjoaSkinner Adjoa Skinner

    love this. I can even use this for my stage presentations as a performer.
    I’ve been looking at using some props and projections for the set design of my one woman show… thank you for your wisdom: Never forget: You are the presenter. Your message should be the focus. Not your slides. Not your props. And not your handouts. You are in the lead role, and you need to retain that role.
    No amount of “razzle dazzle” or slide effects can overcome a weak presentation. If you don’t do your job, slides won’t save you. It only makes a bad presentation worse.Create a logical flow to your presentation. Better yet, tell a story. (See Cliff Atkinson’s Beyond Bullet Points. The absolute last thing you want to do is turn your presentation into a random assortment of bulleted lists, which is what often happens, especially when PowerPoint is involved. There must be a flow.

    • Jim Martin

      Thanks for your comment Adjoa.   I was thinking, as I read your comment, about the diversity of the readers of Michael’s blog.  So many occupations are represented.  Now added to some of these, you are reading this post in light of your performance.  Thanks so much.

  • Peter Scholtens

    I always suggest the 6 by 6 rule. No more than 6 bullets, and no more than 6 words per bullet. And never read from the slide!

    • http://charlielyons.ca Charlie Lyons

      I like this rule, Peter. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jim Martin

      Good suggestion Peter.  Thank you.

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    I would add –

    Look at your audience, not your presentation – We’re here for you. We want to hear you speak not read word for word.

    Know what’s coming next – Nothing is more distracting than watching you fumble through your slides trying to figure out where you need to be. Prepare!

    Know how to work the software – If you do not know how to advance your slides, either learn how to control them or find someone that knows how to do it.

  • Lissa

    Great tips! Thanks, Michael!

    While I understand not wanting to give a comprehensive handout before you speak, a shorter one with an outline with blanks is sometimes helpful. The audience has to listen for or watch for these main words in your presentation. It isn’t long enough that they will be spending a long time reading it while you are speaking, but they can follow allong on your main points and be engaged in writing key words into your outline as you speak. It also gives an overview on one sheet  that they can refer back to later. I personally remember more when I have been engaged in writing as well as seeing and hearing. There are all kinds of learners, so this may not be true for everyone.

  • Doug Lange

    I have often wondered how you can tap into the different learning styles when not using PowerPoint.  The visual learner can benefit from presentation software.  How can I reach the visual learner without presentation software?

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      How about using a unique prop for an illustration, or telling a story using gestures/body movement? Presentation software is a modern addition to communication, albeit a good one. Effective communicators have been connecting with different learning styles for centuries without the benefit of technology.

      • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

        Great suggestion…

        I was at a “State of the County” meeting (no PPT) and one of the commissioners held up a CFL light bulb as a prop. It was by far the most effective part of her speech.

        • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

          Cool. Love it. So I’m curious … do you remember the point of the prop? That’s the real tell …

          • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

            While I don’t necessarily agree with the conclusion, the light bulb was a symbol of Federal Government overreach and it’s attack on consumer freedom and choice. This poor CFL bulb also embodied the State Government’s attack on rural counties. A lot for a light bulb, huh?

          • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

            Poor little light bulb …

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jane-Babich/100002993676826 Jane Babich

    All of the tips are very useful and need to be reviewed before each presentation preparation.
    Being a presenter should be a Pre-Enter… meaning to the listener, what I am speaking about is necessary before entering a new method, skill, decision, etc.  If it is just information, maybe a presentation is not the best venue.
    The decision to give the handout before or after, is a question I answer based on my audience.  If the majority of the listeners are “eager” to learn or are looking for “take aways” from the presentation, I will hand out before or after the first break in the presentation. 
    If the majority of the listeners are there to  “hear” and not necessarily to “listen & learn”, I hold them back and hand them out at the end.

  • http://www.wonderwomanimnot.com/ Elizabeth Hill

    Presenting for a lot of people doesn’t come easy and it typically shows.  How much I use a tool like PowerPoint depends on what type of event I’m presenting at.  If I’m presenting at work for a meeting or event I typically use a few slides since a) it’s the company culture and b) it does help drive home some of my points.  If I’m speaking outside of my company I tend to not use a lot of slides.  The topics that I speak about typically don’t slides.  I would only use one if I want to show a visual, like a photograph.

    I would agree with the point about never, ever read from the slide.  If at all possible memorize the presentation so you don’t have notes that you are fumbling with.  Also, practice really does make perfect.  I try to run through my presentation several times so that I’m comfortable with the flow. 

  • http://necessarymiscellany.wordpress.com/ John Herndon

    An addition: Allow time to completely and correctly set up  and test your technology.

    After you’ve prepared an awesome presentation you don’t want to discover a problem with visual or audio technology with the audience present. 

    Check the Screen (Is it level? Flush with audience?), Projector (Is it in focus? Is there any image hangover the edges of the screen?), Microphone (Does the mic work? Is there an On/Off switch or not? Will you be turning it on or is there a sound guy? Is it positioned so you don’t Pop your “P’s”?), Sound Balance/Mix (Does your voice sound pleasant through the system? Are there any weird “hums” or other sounds?), Etc.

    If all these things are running smoothly the audience won’t even notice! It’s all a part of the illusion. But, they will feel more comfortable and be more receptive.

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      I can’t tell you how many times I’ve assumed everything was ok…

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Great point, John!  Just yesterday I was speaking at a church and afterwards my wife said that, from part of the front section, the podium was partially blocking the screen during a video clip.  I knew that I needed to move, but no one, including me, thought to sit in the front seats to see if the podium was blocking the screen for the front section! 

    • http://necessarymiscellany.wordpress.com/ John Herndon

      Also, don’t be this guy. Or any of these people for that matter…


  • http://talesofwork.com kimanzi constable

    I wouldn’t add a thing, very helpful and I’ll be using these next time!

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Kimanzi … Not ONE thing? ;)

      • http://talesofwork.com kimanzi constable

        I’ve only made a few presentations and don’t have much experience, so I defer to the expert on this.

      • http://talesofwork.com kimanzi constable

        I’ve only made a few presentations and don’t have much experience, so I defer to the expert on this.

  • http://bentheredothat.com Ben Patterson

    Fantastic suggestions. I agree on handing out literature after the presentation.

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Don’t give them any reason to be distracted, right?

      • http://bentheredothat.com Ben Patterson

        Exactly. Passing handouts invites the participants to tune you out.

  • http://bentheredothat.com Ben Patterson

    This is a given but it cannot be under-stated: Practice with your technology. Knowing how to balance your presentation with its visual content needs repitition.

    • Jim Martin

      So true, Ben, regarding the importance of practicing with your technology.  Doing so can prevent a presentation train wreck.

  • http://twitter.com/mgowin Michael Gowin

    Excellent points, Michael, and lots of additional value in the comments. 

    Besides the fonts you recommended (Helvetica, Verdana, Arial, Myriad Pro), newer fonts like Calluna Sans, Centrale Sans, and Cassia can add life to a presentation, especially since audiences aren’t accustomed to seeing them.

    I usually encourage presenters to avoid bullet points altogether and share no more than one thought or idea on each slide. In many cases, this can mean a lot more slides but also provides the potential for a much more visually interesting and engaging presentation.

    • Jim Martin

      Michael, thank you for mentioning these three newer fonts in addition to the once Michael mentioned in the post.  Having a few more options is helpful.

  • Gomakemusic

    Use a few of your texts pages in a presentation to simply Ask a question. 1 sentence questions are a great way to engage the audience mentally and get them thinking about the topic. Once you answer the question, you can ask for a show of hands of how many people knew the answer….Keep them awake and focused.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Good point about asking questions!  Having the audience “think” of an answer and later raise hands can be a very effective tool.  Having the audience “speak” an answer to a closed-ended question can also be a great way to engage them.  Of course, that has to be limited so that an intended monologue doesn’t turn into unwanted dialogue.  

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      LOVE the question approach. I use it often … and early ;) Great tip!

  • http://charlielyons.ca Charlie Lyons

    My weekend video post on my blog was on this very topic. Perhaps you saw the video; I found it on Six Pixels of separation. A “funny because it’s true” storyline in the video and only a few minutes long, it’s definitely worth every second for a presenter that needs “sharpening.”

    If I may be so bold, here’s the shortlink to the post on my blog: http://clyons.ca/zf22qQ.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Charlie, that video sums up many common facets of bad presentations!  Thanks for sharing!

      • http://charlielyons.ca Charlie Lyons

        Glad to share it. It summed it up for me too, John.

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Charlie … Thanks for the link. Generally speaking, if you feel a post you’ve written will help the community here, go ahead and post. Your link is spot-on ;)

      • http://charlielyons.ca Charlie Lyons

        Great! Thanks, Justin. I didn’t want it to seem like I was shamelessly promoting my blog. :)

        Thanks again, Justin, and congrats on the new community leader post. :)

  • Speaker of the house

    The old adage, a picture is worth a thousand words is still true. But words should be spoken, not read.  Bullet points at most. 

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Very true.  Also, along those lines, you must know your transitions.  Whatever is on your screen should not be your cue for your talking point.  With few exceptions, the screen should enhance what you are already talking about, not launch the discussion.

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Brevity wins. ;)

  • Paularnholdspeaks

    Jon, I also concur. I have a public relations officer who insists on using animation and dorky sounds.  Because he teaches marketing at a community college, he assumes what he himself learned back in the early eighties still apply today.  Well done graphics and short video  clips are still effective but the rest just seems unprofessional to me.  I get invited to speak, not play cartoons all day. 

  • John Hawken

    If you can, use images to tell your story as much as possible – they  help to create a more memorable presentation and retain audience interest more effectively

  • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

    These are great tips! Thanks for sharing them. I like the idea of giving a handout.

    • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

      Before or after the presentation? :P

      • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

        It depends on the setting. If it is a Bible study or something like that, I would give it before. What situation do you think think would be best to give it after?

        • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

          Well according to what Michael said in this blog, ALL OF THEM!

  • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

    This is great stuff. I became a big fan of Nancy Duarte’s book “Slide:ology” a few years ago and it echos a lot of what you are saying here. Her newer book,
    Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences, I thought was equally as compelling as her first. Her blog, blog.duarte.com, is a must read for speakers, digital communicators, storytellers and leaders.

    • Jim Martin

      Barry, I am glad you mentioned these two resources.  You are right, these two resources are very helpful.  In particular, I have benefited from Resonate.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I love Nancy’s stuff. She produced my video intro and outro. I had her company do work for me at Thomas Nelson. They are awesome.

  • http://twitter.com/ChadEBillington Chad Billington

    this made me think of a youtube video a friend shared with me on facebook the other day, “Every Presentation Ever: Communication Fail” that spoofed common problems presenters have. It was fairly comical. 

    Thought I’d share it:

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I have seen that. Very funny!

  • Sharon

    This is very interesting as our Pastors always use powerpoint presentations for their sermons on a Sunday.  Would you give the same advice to them? I must admit that I would agree “less is more” as often the wordier or busier slides tend to distract rather than enhance the message being preached!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, absolutely.

  • Anonymous

    These points are all awesome! Thank you, I have a big presentation tomorrow, pitching a new training program and I’ll be using several of these tips. I have been presenting for many years and for more presentations than I would like to admit I repeated a dreaded mistake and would now like to share what I learned and how a weak point in my presentations has become a terrific strength.
    In the early days of my management career I heard practically every presentation end with the question… Are there any questions?
    I knew it as I observed… this question rarely produced any questions. If any one did ask one it seemed to be obligatory and of low value.
    When I started making presentations and then later produced training material I began to end every presentation with strategic questions based on my message. This simple change in my presentation technique changed outcome in such a positive way that others began to ask me for help in crafting meaningful presentations.
    So my rule to add, never ask the question… Are there any questions?
    Instead, reiterate action items in the form of questions. Or, re-word a few of your key points into questions. I could do a entire post on this, but I hope you can see the value of this method.

  • Andrea Dale

    Script in, practice and follow-through on turning “off” the PPT slides so that it’s “gone.” Then your audience focuses completely on you and what you are saying. (And warn the technician beforehand so they don’t freak out.)

    I plan for and take advantage of their increased attention by walking
    into the audience (with a mobile mic), moving around on the stage, etc.
    as I communicate.

    Once you’ve covered that point, turn it back “on” and go on, etc.

    Don’t overuse this tactic, otherwise it will lose impact.

  • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

    Wow. I know a lot of people who could be greatly helped by this blog post. Time to share!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeremylandon Jeremy Marshall

    For the next generation of presentation software that helps to tell a story rather than just convey information, check out prezi.com.  It’s free and amazing; in my opinion, it’s what Apple should have come up with instead of Keynote!

    • http://twitter.com/JonTaylorPlus Jon Taylor

      Jeremy, I should have read this before I commented. Great comment! 

  • http://twitter.com/JonTaylorPlus Jon Taylor

    These are excellent reminders. I’ve been experimenting with an engaging and free presentation model called Prezi (prezi.com). The feedback from the audience has been that it is visually appealing, not distracting, and entertaining to follow along. It has transformed my hatred for creating powerpoints into a fun project! And you can’t complain about the price…

  • http://www.transformingleader.org/ Wayne Hedlund

    Excellent! I can’t wait to share this with the network of Pastors I serve next month. This can give the Sunday morning presentation in our local churches a major upgrade. Thanks for posting this!

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    Boy, a lot of this could be applied to church announcements, whether spoken or on a screen. It doesn’t help to put something out there if it doesn’t connect with your readers/listeners.

  • Marco Montemagno

    Hi Michael and congrats for your post!

    At http://www.presenterimpossible.com I’ve just started sharing tips and advices for all the people interested in delivering unconventonal presentations + I just wrote “9 tips to get your audience’s attention in 10 seconds” that maybe can be an additional help for your readers :)

  • Pingback: What I have Learned about Public Speaking | Womens Ministry Blog()

  • Pingback: 5 Ways Blogging Is Better than Social Networking | E-investing()

  • Tim Blankenship

    Great rules! CE meetings with speakers who have audio-visual trouble and end up just speaking turn into some of the better lectures….this truly shows if they are an expert or not.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Great point, Tim.  A/V trouble is either trial by fire, or it’s the chance for a professional to show their effectiveness without the tools!

  • Pingback: Friday Favorites – January 20, 2012 — Business coach and accelerator, creating vision and success in your business Whiteboard Business Partners()

  • Zirk

    Hi, I could not agree more!!! You are right: keep your presentations simple. Use big fonts (and avoid to use “Comic Sans MS”!!!), short sentences, inside sum-ups all along the presentation. Personnally I am not found of any special effects…

  • Trugliaf

    I would add to “keep your audience INTO the presentation”, meaning to make sure everybody is taking part actively. This fully depends on the presenter’s skils to keep everybody engaged while he’s speaking.

  • http://twitter.com/4himccm jennifer eckert

    Another suggestion I would make if no one else has yet is the use of color.  Make sure the text is readable with the color scheme used.  Have another person double check for you (I have done this on several occasions the last 2 school years when I was working on my master’s degree).  The last thing a presenter wants is people unable to read the slides because the color contrast of the text and background is too close together.

  • http://www.studentlinc.net timage

    The folks over at GrowingLeaders.com have created a wonderful (funny) video to demonstrate all of the wrong ways to communicate a presentation. Well worth a look – http://www.growingleaders.com/habitudes/communicators/

    • Jim Martin


      Thanks for including the link to the video.  I just watched it.  It is great!  You are right.  Well worth a look.

  • Mark Exterkamp

    Stand while you present and have note cards to refer to, don’t read off of the slide…everyone already has

  • Bob Tiede

    Hard to improve on Jesus’s two rules for his presentations:
    1.  Tell Stories
    2.  Ask Questions

  • Michael Bell

    At last, I have a plan for my life. Can’t wait to get started…………..! Thank you Michael.

    From: Michael Bell, husband, father, community leader and minister (Mitchell’s Plain, Cape Town South Africa) 

  • http://scottkantner.com Scott Kantner

    Step 6. Practice, preferably using the gear you plan to use on presentation day.
    Step 7. If it’s a really important presentation, take your OWN gear, projector and all, including an extension cord and outlet strip.

  • http://twitter.com/amilwani Aman Milwani

    awesome tips thank you

    i found some great ideas here also. u can have a loo if u like

  • http://www.airedalecomputers.com/ Keith

    My most engaging presentations consist of a series of photographs or pictures that illustrates what I’m taking about with no more than a title on each slide.  The presentation follows a story.  I usually have a second copy of the presentation with 2-3 lines of text under each slide telling a short version of the story, available to download from my website afterwards. 

    For me, the most annoying presenters are those who do not understand that the word “errrr” is supposed to be silent and not a link from one sentence to another. (See any of the Queens speeches for the definitive example).  

  • Kanyunyuzi

    If you new at making presentations try a practice run before a friend before the big day. Their comments will enrich your interaction with your audience.

  • Punhetas

    broxe meu tou com comoçao na pixa

  • http://www.zica.org/ digital animation training

    Thanks for sharing, it will help me in future.

    • Sanaali

      its too dificult i cant understand it

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002965634170 Porosh Shafi

    This is a great project. I wonder where these local history
    images can be seen on any other day?

    Takeaway Delivery Software

  • Caroline

    The thing that drives me completely crazy is a speaker who instead of facing his  audience, constantly turns around and reads from the slide projected behind him

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Oh man. That is bad. I think the next worst is looking down at the podium and reading the speech verbatim as it is written.

    • Jim Martin

      Caroline, you are so right.  I saw a clip of a presentation earlier today where the speaker did that.  Very distracting.

  • http://www.360tips.org/ Zac

    Such useful post to create better PowerPoint presentation.
    I never knew some of point Thanks

  • Dee

    When I view a slide presentation, I really like to have a printed copy in-hand, so that I can make my notes right there on a slide, real time, and not somewhere else that I have to coordinate with the presentation slides, if handed out later or only available online. I also like having the copy in-hand, as the presentation moves along, so that when the presenter moves along quicker than my mind can absorb, I can catch up from the printed slides, make notes for Q&A, and have a reference point of my own, when the presenter clicks away too fast, and I didn’t get to see all that I wanted.

    That was bad sentence structure, but I hope you get the picture — I like to take notes on the printed copy, as well as have it in-hand for immediate reference.

  • Pingback: 4 Random (but Useful) Tips to Help Students Find Photos for PowerPoint, Blogs, and Other School Projects « Leading, Teaching, & Learning()

  • VickiD

    It’s funny, I was recently at yet another presentation where the power point was the focus.  The speaker tried to interject ‘conversation’ but followed that with reading the slide which was her conversation; and full of ‘um’s to link them together.  It was at that point that I made my only note of the day “When did the power point take over presentations?”

    But then again earlier this year I was treated to a ‘ transparency projector ‘ presentation and I had flash backs to the memograph machine, blue ink, the wonderful smell….ah, I digress.

  • http://twitter.com/SteveBorek Business Coach Steve

    I like making the presentation interactive with the audience. It’s more fun that way for them and me!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      What do you do to make it interactive? Ideas?

  • http://twitter.com/moiraderoche Moira de Roche

    Just adding to “Less is more”. I am currently working on a presentation in the Pecha-Kucha format (20 slides, 20 seconds each). Obviously I will only have a visual or very few words on each slide. I was amazed to find that I was hard pressed to actually do 20 slides! So if your presentation has too many slides, I bet you have too much text on each slide.
    I fell asleep in what could have been a good presentation the other day because everything the speaker said was on the slide, so I’d read the content quickly and then nod off while he droned on.

  • http://JaredLatigo.com/ Jared Latigo

    I 100% agree with all this! I once had a professor in college that told us not to use powerpoint at all. He made us do our speeches without anything except for note cards (or nothing if you wanted) just so we could learn the essence of speaking instead of the details. He was an incredible speaker and I plan to use some of his tricks when I get to start speaking sometime soon. Thanks again!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      That’s a great exercise, Jared. I personally think all speakers should do this. Then, if/when they add props or slides, it simply decorates an already solid presentation.

  • http://www.liveyourwhy.net/ Terry Hadaway

    After having taught in colleges and universities for about 15 years, I’ve seen my share of good and bad presentations. I always advise students to use a 2 to 5 ratio for slides—two slides for every 5 minutes of presentation. The second bit of advice was simple—rehearse. Nothing says, “I wasn’t ready for this” like flying through the final 26 slides in 48 seconds. 

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       Hahaha … exactly.

  • James Vanreusel

    Blog idea…
    A Digital Marketing Consultancy company contacted me with the following: 

    We represent clients interested in social media marketing on smaller sites with
    little or no existing advertising and we’re currently looking for advertising

    We pay a fixed upfront annual fee which we will agree on with you. Once the ad
    is in place, payment is made within approximately 48 hours.

    Would you be interested in placing a small text-based ad on “mycompany’s website”.com?

    What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing this? What is a reasonable price to ask for?



  • http://orgspring.com/ Craiggrella

    I find with technical webinars it’s hard to keep the word count down to 6 per slide, but brevity is best when possible. Tomorrow I’m doing a webinar on Gotowebinar called Google Drive for Nonprofits: http://orgspring.com/google-drive-for-nonprofits-webinar/. I’m also streaming it on Google hangouts on air so we can interact with a few people live. I’m really excited to see how that interaction plays out. This post inspired me to recheck my text to see where I could cut down. Thanks – wish me luck.

  • Ted Rice

    Your timing is impeccable (as always!) as I’m preparing a presentation this week.  I really liked your idea about putting the slides on slideshare, but would caution that, as with the handout, you do not share the url until after the talk, as those who would peek ahead on handouts might also do so electronically. 

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Good suggestion.

  • http://www.austinburkhart.com/ Austin Burkhart

    This is so true. As a college student I see way to many people relying on PowerPoint to do their job. Instead of paying attention to them, we all just try to read the paragraphs they put in their presentation. I’ve found the a few key phrases or images is usually plenty and sends the message that PowerPoint is just there for support.

    Have a great day everyone!

    Blog: http://www.AustinBurkhart.com

    • Jim Martin

      Thanks Austin for reminding us of what happens in a presentation when we rely too heavily on PP.  A good reminder!

  • http://twitter.com/ClayMorganPA Clay Morgan

    I’ve gone back and forth on the choice to handout slide or not. I finally ended up feeling similar to you, that handing them out in advance steals thunder and ultimately distracts the audience. I like your suggestions to announce that one is coming and how to deliver.

  • Steve Thompson

    If you are going to use graphics or pictures in your presentation to make a point, use the clearest and least cluttered graphic or photo. Normal background will distract from your point and your flow.

    • Jim Martin

      Thank you Steve.  Good advice.

  • John Partridge

    6) Use pictures judiciously.  Don’t just cram pictures in that aren’t relevant or that are only marginally relevant, but DO use them.  People often remember pictures better than words.  Instead of just showing a slide that says “London” or “New York” or “Dayton, Ohio”, show pictures of your building there, or downtown, or the local park or SOMETHING.  The impact is bigger and people will remember it better.

  • http://twitter.com/WritersResort Gwyn Nichols

    What not to do:
    Don McMillan, “Life after Death by PowerPoint”

    Instead, try this:
    Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Great resources, Gwyn. Thanks for sharing. Love Garr Reynolds’ stuff. 

  • http://Thefieldgeneral.com/ Chris Coussens

    My company has a bad habit of violating most of these rules. I think the issue is driven by the fact that power point is used as the optimal reporting tool up to upper management. A report that is read not presented. Thus we are forcing people to develop good executive reports (brief and layered) but we are simotaneosly teaching them to develop bad presentations.

    Anyone else see PowerPoint used this way?

  • Brian Ives

    Thanks, every time I feel like I am getting better at some thing, I read one of your posts that makes me work harder at it!   Thanks for all the great information.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Speaking is a skill that will always require effort and improvement. Makes me want to choose an easier profession. :) I have to keep reminding myself that I’ll never really “arrive,” but I’m making progress.

  • Brian Ives

    I had the problem of designing Power Points that “I liked,” and trying to use them to teach teenagers. I have had to look at it differently and realize that they are not influenced the same way and do not see things the same way I do.

  • http://jonahenry.com/ Jon Henry

    Although I’m largely introverted and unemotional a vast majority of the time, I can not stand presentations where the presenter is not even excited to be there. If the presenter is not excited to be there, why should I be?

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      True. And, as a general rule, presenters need to show even more energy on the stage than they think they should for it to reach the audience. It diminishes over distance.

  • http://www.authorpeterdehaan.com/ Peter DeHaan

    I like the idea of posting the handouts on your website. That’s a great idea!

  • John

    Read “Brain Rules” by John Medina, a fascinating look at how and why the human brain retains information. He asserts that traditional classroom instruction methods and business presentations need a complete overhaul to be effective. He makes a compelling argument for adding visual elements, keeping the audience emotionally connected and physically active. You’ll appreciate his insights and his writing style. Enjoy!

  • http://www.LongTermCareRevolution.com Cory Geffre

    I would add #6 … It would be to video yourself as often as possible giving a presentation. The first few times it will be painful to watch, but after the nausea passes. You can begin to make real change. I still watch my early presentations to remind myself to practice, because I don’t ever want to be that bad again!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Great advice, Cory. Watching videos of yourself (even listening to audio if you don’t have video) is critical. It’s the best way to see what your audience receives and make quick corrections. You can also identify which illustrations work and those that don’t.

  • http://pastorjohnbarrett.com/ John Barrett

    Presentations are only as good as the presenter.  To have a better presentation become a better communicator.  To become a better communicator surround yourself with great presentations (books, speakers, blogs, magazines, etc…)

  • http://www.mondayisgood.com/ Tom Dixon

    I love the point of not using title capitalization outside of titles.  I often find myself violating that rule, realizing it doesn’t look right, and then going back and making mass edits.  It Is Annoying and Looks Dumb.

  • Katie

    I’m bookmarking this for the future. Although a few of these pointers are familiar to me, many of them are fresh and BRILLIANT. And thank goodness, I’ve found someone else who strongly dislikes PowerPoint. But here’s to making the best of it, since it’s apparently not going anywhere anytime soon. (:

  • Ronnie

    I agree with Michael on the poor quality of most PowerPoint slide shows. Being in the military I am all too familiar with the term “Death by PowerPoint “.

    I try to live by the 6 word rule, but it is tough. I have found Prezi a suitable alternative that promotes using less words.



  • Hannah

    These are good point to remember!  We did a lot of presentation in our fellowship but I make the same mistakes by putting too much on the slides thinking I need to pack as much in as possible because there’s not much time there.   There are many new ways i can learn from this and hopefully I’ll make some improvement in my next presentation.  Thank you so much for sharing that and it’s really helpful! 

  • toddstocker

    4 TIPS: 
    When I speak around the country, the very first questions I have for the event planner is, “Tell me about the audience.”  Great communication always starts with knowing your hearer. 

    Another question I ask myself as I’m preparing is “Would I want to hear myself give this presentation.”  THAT’S A SCARY ONE! 

    Always lean more heavily on speaking from your HEART rather than your HEAD.  People want to get to know you.  Tell them about your personal struggles, victories and thoughts in relation to the message you’re presenting. 

    One last tip … When listening to presentations, the human brain needs some sort of change every 7 minutes.  In short, change it up but don’t add stories, stats and clips that have nothing to do with your message.

    Michael, I think I just wrote my next blog post on yours!  Sorry. 

    Todd Stocker

  • Preeti Prasad

    I am a student at a Design School & often need to make presentations. Helpful tips here !

  • Kiran Pagar

    The sentence, “I have sat through hundreds of presentations. Most of them were done with PowerPoint. Most of them are done poorly.”  can be seriously true for so many fellows!

  • http://www.conklinstudios.com Dr. N. Mason Conklin

    Check out “the Zen of Presentations” (title may be wrong, but a Google or Amazon search with ‘Zen’ and ‘presentation’ should get it.). The biggest impact on my presentations is to use images instead of words as much as possible. This allows you to explain each slide instead of reading each slide. This keeps your audience from reading ahead, and keeps them engaged with your aural presentation. I’ve had extremely positive responses from my audiences since implementing this strategy.

  • http://harrisonwilder.com/ Harrison

    The difficulty with powerpoint is that it is so linear.  I’ve done several workshops and sermons now using an online presentation tool (www.prezi.com).  It allows for more movement so the visual aide paints a picture and tells the story with you.  You’re right, though…it can’t replace quality of the presenter.  

  • http://www.kathleenmcanearsmith.com/ Kathleenmcanearsmith

    At conferences, I’ve found people do not like to tote handout around from meeting to meeting; so I leave a sign up sheet for anyone who would like me to email them my notes/handout. It seems to work, and I get some lovely new contacts…ie not just the conference list, but people who are actually interested in what I have to say. Thanks for your encouraging blog!

  • Pingback: 4 Reasons Every Pastor Should Blog()

  • http://www.newdrugaddictionguide.com/ drug addiction treatments

    Of course giving presentation is arts of subject.  Focusing on listeners concentration is very important while taking presentation to audience. Otherwise rules are good.

  • Pingback: Tips for Delivering Winning Presentations – Your PowerPoint Slides Suck « towardcontent()

  • Becky

    I would be try not to be glued to the screen. Walk around a little.

  • Rob West

    Michael… Do you have a recommendation for a firm that creates high end presentations if I want to outsource this? Thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I recommend Duarte Design or Ethos3. I’ve used both, and they are both fabulous.

      • Rob West

        Thanks, Michael!

  • Camathmrl

    I would add …
    avoid use of premade templates like the plague
    do use appropriate photos…to illustrate a point or as basis for a poinient story

  • Cathy Swan

    Contrast matters! Using a dark background with light print works best – especially in a well lit or sun-filled room. Don’t determine your color scheme by looking at your computer screen. All combinations will look pretty good there! But red print on a black screen can’t be seen in projection mode. Go for the highest contrast ratio available.  Don’t use light background with dark print for projection. The eye is drawn to light. Draw your audience to the words and not the background. Try it! You’ll get better results.

  • http://twitter.com/PodcastinChurch Paul Clifford

    Rule number 1.  If your whole talk is on-screen, just give people the link and leave.  PowerPoint isn’t for your presenter notes or manuscript.  It’s a visual aid to help your talk.

  • Pingback: Ten for Tuesday, August 28, 2012 | AllFinancialMatters()

  • Pingback: 4 Reasons Every Pastor Should Blog - The Techology Show()

  • http://twitter.com/CashFlowsToo CashFlowsToo

    This is a wonderful article.  It actually right on time too.  I’m in the process of putting together one of those long slide shows for a presentation this weekend.  You have caused me to revisit the premise of what I plan to discuss.  

    In short, you’ve made me allowed me to learn the best way to deliver my message is to deliver the message myself.

    Thanks You.

  • Pingback: This Week’s Great Links -()

  • Pingback: Stop using Powerpoint to create presentations, start using your iPad! « Productivity « tabletproductive()

  • Pingback: Guidelines on how to make a good powerpoint presentation. « trappedrozes()

  • robert Bailey

    Question, how many slides would you expect to use in a 60 minute presentation

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      It really depends. I have one presentation with 12 and one with 65.

  • http://twitter.com/ProPresent_UK Gary Newton-Browne

    lots of business people don’t have the time (or the patience)  to get to grips with the complexities of presentation software. it’s often a better use of time to outsource to a presentation design firm or local presentation designer.

  • flyboy555

    Great article.  Very helpful.  I would also recommend not reading the slides to the class.  They can read…..just hit the highlights.  Great job!!

  • C.H.

    Hi, I liked your idea for the slideshare.net. I was wondering if you were aloud to only share your powerpoint with certain people on that site?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You can share it with the entire world or password protect it. It’s up to you.

  • http://www.ryanridgway.com/ Ryan Ridgway

    These are all fantastic points! I’m especially in agreement about the handouts. Providing them before the presentation always acts as a huge distraction. Then, by the time everyone leaves, as opposed to leaving with handout in hand, they’re scattered about the chairs because they’ve already scanned it during the presentation ;)

  • Hafiza Faiza

    give more briefing plz

  • Worldqueen143fg

    its good but explain little bit more plz

  • http://www.facebook.com/ilene.saidel Ilene Saidel

    A wonderful confirmation for me… I have a presentation coming up and had prayed about it. The answer: Speak and provide a hand-out…

  • Sandeep Sidhu

    Humor always make huge difference in your audience to get the attention….

    Effective Presentations

  • Pingback: Tips membuat presentasi yang baik bagi pelajar()

  • Clinton Jones

    What do you think about the idea of using video content in a live presentation to an audience in a seminar. My experience is that unless it has some awesomeness it will underwhelm and actually come across as a lazy way to fill time. Particularly if it is video of someone else speaking, UNLESS again of course, if it demonstrates some particular behaviour or characteristic of the person speaking in the video. Examples of where it might be appropriate is when showing a mannerism a dress code or something that is distinctive about that individual. Conversely simply a couple of sentences from an endorser of a method, a product or a statement about a process – does it really make sense to disrupt the momentum of the overall speaker by forcing an anecdote via video?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think it can work. I have found funny videos to be the most effective.

  • Suraj

    Thanks for the tips Michael!

    I used to have massive problems with designing my presentations. I got a chance to download visualbee a few months ago and it lets you automate the design element of your presentations with just the click of a button. It does this based on the text you punch into your presentation.

    In case you need to try it give it a go and download it at http://www.visualbee.com/download.html

  • huckit P

    Check colors of text against background of slide against the color of the screen (or wall) you are going to present on. Some colors work better than others. Too late when people show up and they can’t decipher what’s on the screen.

  • Matt

    Saw this thru your tweet so I hope you’re still taking comments. Mine is more of a question:

    How much of this applies in a continuing education setting where the purpose is to convey legal or academic concepts, rather than to persuade or inspire?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I still think it applies. If you have more detail, use a handout.

  • Renée Garpestad

    6. Images Trump Text. If you can make a point with a photograph or image, use the graphic in place of text. It’s often more memorable, especially for visual learners.

  • Hanno

    Thank you Mr. Hyatt. You helped me tweak my presentation for this coming Monday afternoon. Glad I read this great post!

  • manly man


  • madhu

    i was really helpfull by this thanks for creating such site

  • Becky Baker Schaefer

    I am very late to the conversation, but am wondering how people feel about placing page numbers on the slides? I say no since it draws attention to the length of the presentation. I feel the audience is counting slides, rather than listening to the speaker. I agree that the PowerPoint should accent the presentation, not be the presentation. I only wish I could get the Executives I support to agree!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      If you are passing out the slides as a printed deck (like in banker or investor presentations), definitely use page numbers. Otherwise, I agree with you.

  • Joe Herman

    I think that there should be no hand outs during these events at all. This is because I would not like it if that happened to me!

  • Mark Narelle Robb

    Fabulous Michael, like when email first came around without any form of etiquette, with users learning on the fly, often with disastrous results and outcomes, powerpoint presentations and their users have suffered the same fate. Oh for a dollar for ever ‘Death-by-PP” presentation I have sat through, I would be a rich man by now. Thank you for your insightful comments about presentations I look forward to gleaning a few more gems from it as I read it again and apply some of your shared knowledge. Keep up the good work. Regards,Mark

  • Alena Belleque

    I’m jumping in late, Michael, but I have a question – how would you adapt this advice when considering preparing a 3-5 minute (professionally produced) video presentation/introduction that you intend to follow up with an in-person presentation?

    My husband and I are preparing to begin speaking with groups and individuals about sex-trafficking, and our goal to become full time volunteers with an NGO in SE Asia. We need to begin fundraising this fall, and plan to go to the country in question for 10-16 days next spring/summer, and a local movie producer we know has agreed to help us with this project. We will send the video out to individuals and leaders of groups (pastors, etc) with a request to present locally, and we’ll also post it on our website and social media, providing a way for followup questions to be submitted. After our trip, we intend to produce a new video, longer, that we can take with us on a 6-8 week cross-country fundraising trip, or send where we cannot go personally.

    We want to do this right! Any advice is appreciated. ♥

    • http://www.thehomemadecreative.com/ Alena Belleque

      Just realized I was signed in with the wrong login info. This is correct. Not sure what the other one is, honestly! #confused #lol

  • http://remotepossibilities.wordpress.com/ Craig Hadden

    Great tips here – #1 (don’t give the software centre stage) is one of the main keys to success.

    A great way to stick to rule #1 is to periodically black out your slide. You might like these several novel ways to do that, WITHOUT having to return to your old slide when you come back from black.

    (The focus in that post is PPT, because that’s what I know, but I’m sure you’d be able to apply most of the techniques in Keynote.)

    The rule I’d add to your list is to write a single sentence that’s your call to action, and then develop your whole talk from that.

  • http://www.hoopercoaching.com/ Charles Hooper Jr

    A great book on this topic is Presentation Zen. The ideas in your blog in this book have redefined for me the way I do presentations and people have really responded well.

  • http://caya.me/ Caya

    I recently discovered a presentation tool that pretty much does all the hard work for you (on the design part). It’s called Slidebean. (slidebean.com)