Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

6 Tips to Pack a PowerPoint Punch

Most of us could have been perfectly happy without PowerPoint in our lives, but like it or not, the ubiquitous program has become a staple of the modern office.

If you’re pitching an idea, making a recommendation, or trying to get a large group of people on the same page, a solid PowerPoint presentation goes a long way to help. So here are 6 tips to shine, next time it’s your turn to present:

1. Tell a story

Sure, you can put together a deck of revenue charts and hope the data will speak for itself. But if you create a “story” to guide the discussion, your presentation’s going to be a whole lot stronger. A story helps your audience follow your reasoning, and helps you get the discussion back on track when it goes off on a tangent.

Two common story arcs are:

  • Problem -> Potential solutions -> Analysis of each -> Recommendation on best solution
  • Recommendation -> Supporting rationale -> Analysis to back up rationale -> Next steps
  • 2. Make it easy to read

    Nothing’s worse than forcing your audience to squint at the screen, desperately trying to decipher your message. If your slides are going to be printed hand-outs, then 14-point font is fine. But if you’re going to be projecting on a screen and presenting to a room, keep your font large (many experts recommend at least 28 points). And regardless, stay away from difficult fonts.

    3. Use bullet points, not paragraphs

    Your bullet points should be clear, succinct phrases. Avoid including every word you’re going to say, you don't need them all on the page. You don't want your audience spending more time reading your overly-detailed slides than paying attention to you presenting.

    4. Organize information visually

    If your sales initiative has three main phases, trying putting them in three blue boxes—or better yet, three arrows. Represent information visually to keep your audience engaged. No one likes an entire deck of text. It’s boring.

    5. Using charts? Make sure they’re clear

    All graphs, charts, or pictures should be easy to explain, large enough to read, and clearly relevant to the subject at hand. Help your audience understand the point you’re making by titling the chart with your insight (“Sales are up 15% this year, but flat in Q4”) rather than a straight description of what data you graphed (“Sales by Quarter”).

    6. Involve multiple people in the presentation

    Or better yet, involve the audience. Nothing livens up a boring presentation like asking the audience to vote on a poll, provide opinions, or answer a question. If you’re worried about the room being unresponsive, you can try and ask a few individuals beforehand to participate.

    Photo courtesty of Juhan Sonin.

    A logo with "the muse" in white text.