A Power Point Guide to Winning Support and Getting Respect

by Sam Perry on November 17, 2009

Your Power Point presentation (or that of the person next to you) sucks.

Sorry, it had to be said…

…have you (or “a friend” or “a colleague”) ever:

  • Crammed orange Times font in with purple Courier on a turquoise background?
  • Spent hours creating slides full of text and then subjected your colleagues to an hour (or more) of you reading word-for-word off those slides?
  • Built-in amazing embedded video, only to get a blank screen on the setup you actually deliver your presentation on?


Seriously, maybe you’ve started to hone your presentation-building, public speaking, and audience-involvement skills. Maybe you’ve nearly mastered them. But whether you’re giving a talk in a meeting room, or as an invited speaker at a conference, you should pay attention to these dos and don’ts, gleaned from the best and worst (and we mean worst) Power Point presentations in North America:

Your argument

Whether you’re looking to showcase a long-coming plan your team needs to implement yesterday or to get folks on-side with a radical new idea, the best Power Point in the world won’t convince anyone without a clear idea of what you actually want to accomplish as a speaker:

  • Set the stage (Steve Jobs famously opened a Macworld keynote address by saying “There’s something in the air”, before introducing the Macbook Air
  • Identify and build-up to a memorable example – Jobs famously took said Macbook Air out of a manila envelope to prove the point of how revolutionarily-thin it was
  • DO: Paint a simple, visual picture – No matter how much you think you need to show your work with reams of details, you probably don’t need to
  • DO: connect the dots to a final point (i.e. what did you want to accomplish in the first place?) The truth is, even the biggest stickler-for-detail would rather have a simple, ten-second example that leads to an immediate and clear point
  • DO: Rehearse, rehearse, REHEARSE – For even the most seasoned pros, actually delivering your presentation (even to yourself) two or three times will double the quality of almost any talk

You as a product

Never underestimate how much people want (and need) to invest in you as a personality. Your confidence, charisma, and presence counts for a lot when trying to sway others your way…

  • To get people to warm up to you, use personal analogies (sparingly) to connect as humans with others in the room
  • No matter what happens, stay the course: Even if you do something so bad that you deserve to have it sidetrack you, DON’T let yourself be sidetracked – Nothing is worth a nervous pause when you can instead move ahead with a confident segway
  • DON’T refer to previous presentations or any other information that comes before your talk: Nothing says desperation like a weak referral to someone else’s presentation. If someone else made a truly good point that will make you look good, go for it. Otherwise, your talk is YOUR talk.
  • Involve your audience – Any way you can, even if it’s just stopping to answer (or pose) questions. An even better level of involvement can include a short quiz, game, or other challenge

Your presentation

When it comes to your actual Power Point, here’s our quick-reference guide to doing it right…(Any more must-dos we should ad?)…

  • DO: Have ten slides or less (any more and you’d better have a good reason)
  • DON’T use your slides as a note-receptacle for yourself: don’t read every line of text in your Power Point out-loud (as if no one else can read it). Speaking of text, keep yours to an absolute minimum
  • DO: Choose graphs that are amazing (use graphs and analogies to illustrate your point). When it doubt, use a white or black background
  • DO: Use black or white text unless you have a reason to do otherwise
  • Unless you’re George Lucas, the only transitions you should be using are fades (or no transition at all)
  • Be aware of little things that drive people nuts: e.g. don’t leave a mouse arrow dangling on the screen in front of a graph or screen-capture or video
  • DO: Put your company or team logo in the margin or bottom of each slide (especially if you’re delivering a talk to anyone outside your company or team)
  • DO: Use the same font, in no more than three sizes


These examples get the point across better than any explanation.  The worst list will have you laughing out loud, and the best are flat out inspirational.  Enjoy!

Worst Power Point presentations EVER

Great Power Point presenting

Learn to present like an IT god


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