Simple rules for engaging and effective PowerPoint presentations

Many PowerPoint presentations can be improved significantly by following just a few simple rules.

Apply the less is more approach

  • Always remember, the slides are a supplement to your speech, not a transcript.
  • Slides and content should only be included to capture your viewers’ attention and clarify your points.
  • If a typical conference or meeting presentation is 45-60 minutes and it takes about 2-3 minutes to present a slide, you have just enough time to present up to 15 slides effectively while still allowing 10 – 15 minutes for open question time and discussion.

Create a sound structure

  • Create a sound structure for your presentation by reflecting on the goal of the presentation and then identifying 3 -5 key areas for discussion to deliver that goal.
  • Include a title slide, content summary, 1-3 slides to support each discussion area, a concluding slide to sum-up the presentation and final content slide to encourage engagement through discussion and questions.
  • Contact details should be included on end slide.

Keep it simple and engage audience through imagery

  • As with any design, cut the clutter.
  • Use text sparingly.
  • Be liberal with the use of consistent images that illustrate your main points or to add another layer of meaning to your message.
  • Consider using images that fill up the screen—with a few or no words at all.
  • If using text, apply the 666 rule for simplicity in design: No more than 6 bullets per slide, 6 words per bullet, and 6 word slides in a row.
  • Avoid using complicated graphs or tables, which are better issued on a handout.
  • Avoid using moving text or images (e.g. flying in text) that distracts the audience.

Maintain consistency

  • Use templates to help to maintain consistency.
  • Use the same colors and fonts throughout.
  • Select images in the same style.

Use easy-to-read font

  • Two font families is a good standard to apply.
  • Use a sans serif font (e.g. Arial, Helvetica, or Calibri) for body text as these tend to be the easiest to read on screens.
  • Use decorative or alternative fonts only for slide titles, and then only if they’re easy to read.
  • Font size less than 24 point is too small to be reasonably read in most presentation situations. We recommend to use text at a 28 or 32 point size, with titles being 36 to 44 point size.

Prepare and practice

  • Prepare bulleted speaker script/notes that identify the key messages you wish to get across while each slide is showing.
  • Practice your presentation to test timing, flow, script content and ease of use and viewing of slides and speaker notes.