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How to Create an Effective PowerPoint Presentation

Updated on February 7, 2013
A title slide...notice background and type.
A title slide...notice background and type. | Source

Introduction to PowerPoint

PowerPoint has become the darling of meetings. Go to a conference, business meeting, even a board meeting (of any company, organization or government agency) and you are bound to see a PowerPoint presentation. For those two people out there somewhere in the world who have never heard of PowerPoint, it is a software program created by Microsoft, that allows you to create 'slides' in a slideshow format to present on your computer and/or a large screen via a projector hooked up to your computer. It's options are innumerable.

Have you ever wondered why and how PowerPoint took over meetings? Of course the most obvious is the visual impact PowerPoint makes on your audience. It may also be its resemblance to "Show and Tell" in school, but on steroids! PowerPoint is flexible, easy for you to customize to your own tastes and needs, can be used to engage your audience....need I go on?

So now that we've established what a wonderfully creative and enchanting piece of software PowerPoint is, what is the best way to use it? Before writing about the things you SHOULD do in PowerPoint, I'd like to about the things you SHOULDN'T. Let's take a look at the mistakes you can make.

Too much text on one slide
Too much text on one slide | Source

What NOT to do in a PowerPoint Presentation

Yes, there are things you shouldn't do in a PowerPoint Presentation. Think a minute....have you ever been at a Presentation when the presenter stands next to the screen and reads each point you see on each slide? Really? Is that an insult to the audience- you can't read it yourself - or is it that the presenter doesn't know what he's talking about and has to read the information? That my friends, is the very first thing you must NEVER do with your slides to your audience. It is boring, demeaning and just a waste of time.

Here are a few other things you should avoid in your PowerPoint Presentation:

  • Don't add too much text to a slide.
  • Avoid hard to read text on your slide
  • Don't use crazy, distracting colors
  • Don't use poorly contrasting backgrounds
  • Don't overdo the sound effects
  • Don't use too many visual effects on one slide
  • Don't use PowerPoint as a crutch
  • Don't use photos or graphics that have nothing to do with your presentation
  • Don't use too many slides

Use graphics to make your point.
Use graphics to make your point. | Source
Engage your audience....this slide means 32% of American households do NOT have Christmas trees.
Engage your audience....this slide means 32% of American households do NOT have Christmas trees. | Source

What to DO in an Effective PowerPoint Presentation

The main reason, or at least it should be the main reason, for using a PowerPoint Presentation is that you want to grab your audience's attention. You want them glued to the screen and hanging on your every word...well, maybe that's a little too much to ask for, but you do want to keep them interested in what you have to say.

  • First, before even starting to work in PowerPoint, think out your presentation...draw up an outline...write some notes on what you want to say and how you want to say it
  • Make sure what you want to say is stated clearly and your audience can understand the points you are trying to make
  • Now start using PowerPoint and formatting your presentation
  • Use the space on your slides to your advantage, just like you do on the printed page...don't be afraid of 'white space'
  • Use graphics where they apply. Visuals are always interesting
  • You can insert audio and/or video into your slides, but do so sparingly, make them count
  • When you use graphics, use them for emphasis, make sure there's a reason for that graphic appearing on your slide
  • Keep your slide transitions slide swiping, one slide fading, one slide twirling....see what I mean? Its better to pick a transition and stick with it.
  • If you watched the video (before this) you will have seen that using bullets for key points in your presentation is a good idea....use them to make ideas stand out, not to overrun a slide
  • Use the animations available, but use them sparingly
  • Use bullet points to help avoid writing whole paragraphs to make a point
  • Know how to navigate in PowePoint and how to get from slide to slide and back again if you need to
  • Be sure to save your presentation as you work, after every couple of slides

PowerPoint comes with some built-in color schemes. You can make your own, but why not choose something the professionals have already designed? The text, background and sometimes even a design or motif are all laid out. You can, however, choose your own colors and to help you there, Microsoft suggests the following color combinations for text and background; green on purple, violet on yellow, white on black or blue-green on red. However, it has been found that white or yellow text can be harsh on the eyes and I'm not so sure violet on yellow is something I'd want to use.

Keep your presentation simple but not other words don't overcrowd it with dodads and fancy footwork but make sure your message is clear. Remember pictures are worth a thousand words...don't be afraid to use them! As for bullet points, PowerPoint expert Cliff Atkinson, author of Beyond Bullet Points says, "When you overload your audience, you shut down the dialogue that's an important part of decision-making."

Practice your presentation, do a run through before the day of the actual presentation to be sure the timings are right and everything is just the way you want it. (Check your equipment and make sure that's working too.) Your main point is what will the audience get out of this presentation? Will they learn what you want them to learn?

Free Presentation Software

  • Open Office Impress - part of
  • Slide Rocket is an online presentation software...the Lite version is free
  • Brain Shark is also on online presentation software....the basic version is free at myBrainShark
  • Presentations - an account to use this software is free but you must have Flash 10 to use it


Make PowerPoint work for you....let your slideshow entertain and teach your audience. Use graphics and animations in small doses, use your main point as the center of the slide, and engage your audience. Most importantly, know your subject and practice, practice, practice.

I would like to leave you with some additional information. While Microsoft PowerPoint is THE presentation software, know that it is not the only presentation software. If you are on a restricted budget there is free presentation software to be had. As a matter of fact, the slides I used here were prepared in, a free presentation software. Search around and find what's best for you. Always be careful the 'free' software you are about to download is actually free and is from a reputable source.


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    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      4 years ago from New York

      I'm not the least bit surprised that you shined! Sometimes young people do not appreciate the knowledge AND talent older people have. Thanks for stopping by.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      4 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hi Mary, You've really explained the important things to do with this incredible and versatile tool, as well as the hazards and pitfalls to avoid. I can honestly say that Powerpoint saved my job one time. Yes, it's true.

      My extremely young manager, who was at the time trying to get rid of me for a number of reasons, tasked me with creating a presentation to show other departments how to use our services through the SAP system. She expected me to flounder, but I surprised her with a set of Powerpoint slides that she actually raved about. In fact, her next assignment was for me to give the presentation in person to the other departments, which I did. After that, we became much closer and were able to work together effectively. Whew!

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      I am more than sure you can hone your skills and come up with wonderful powerpoint presentations!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal


      Thanks for this wonderful tutorial. I have rudimentary skills on powerpoint. Hopefully, I will hone my skills now.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      I know what you mean, right now I'm a little behind...I mean in reading of course. backside is another matter. Only the best choose the best GF! Thanks for the votes! And, you're invited to the party anytime...late or otherwise ;)

    • fpherj48 profile image


      6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Hey GF....I'm late to the meeting. Sorry. At this point, I am so far behind in my reading and commenting, I don't know that I'll ever catch up.....but I'm making a heck of an effort. (It only takes one day of being away for the mail to pile high!!)

      Fabulous hub, Til......definitely google-worthy, if ever a hub was! You are sooo knowledgeable. I am impressed all to hell gf!! I sure know how to choose my friends!! LOL......

      I can imagine that you are an excellent, patient "teacher." This is a great "reference guide" for your readers!...UP +++

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      If you have any questions about PP Melovy, you can email me. I'm glad you found this hub useful....I know you can master PP, you just have to sit down and 'play' with it!

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      Now, this is a hub I will have to return to over and over. I know nothing about Power Point and my kids - who are experts - just roll their eyes and say it's easy if I ask them! Thanks for coming to the rescue!

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Sorry Michelle, I was busy teaching teachers how to use PP when you were a teacher...just a world apart! Thanks for sharing.

      Definitely more interesting for students Pamela.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This is a very good explanation as to how to make a great power point presentation. Thanks for all the tips. It is so much nicer than using an overhead projector that I used for teaching. Voted up and very useful.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      I used to depend so much on Powerpoint when teaching. I could have used these tips a little sooner! Thanks for sharing, and I share too.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      I know I could Bill...I taught lots of teachers how to use it and they're still using it ;) Never an old dog!

      Office for Mac's gotta have PowerPoint! Thank you Lorne.

      You're too much Steve!

      Agreed Jools....that's why you've got to keep it from being BORING.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      6 years ago from North-East UK

      Mary, great hub and some useful photos to being it to life. When its used well, it is a pleasure to use and watch. When done badly -urgh! Powerpoint is still one of my favourite toys, though lately I use it to create headers for HP more than presentations.

    • Steve West profile image

      Steve West 

      6 years ago from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

      I gave a power-point presentation yesterday to roomful of 1, the guy shooting the video. 14 minutes of pure perfection on the use of PVC pipe in construction, not a missed word or stuttered phrase. When I was finished he told me..."OOOOOPPPPPS I'm sorry sir I didn't press the right button! Take 2!

    • Lorne Hemmerling profile image

      Lorne Hemmerling 

      6 years ago from Oshawa

      I posted this to facebook, where everyone knows I'm a Mac user. But I do have Office for Mac, and this is very informative, I have often wondered about Power Point. Thanks!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great tips Mary! They tried their darndest when I was teaching to show me how to make one of these, and it never sunk in. What's the saying about old dogs? :) I think I could have learned if you had taught me.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Wow Paul, that was fast... Thanks for the support!

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      These are very interesting tips for a good Powerpoint Presentation. You never want your slides to be too busy with excessive words and sentences. Voted up and sharing.


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