Presentation Tip: Avoid Committing Death by PowerPoint


Presentation Tip: Avoid Committing Death by PowerPoint
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s Tips for Telling Your Story on the Experience Pros Radio Show
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By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel

Presentation Tip: Avoid Committing Death by PowerPointCol. Mustard did it in the study with a PowerPoint presentation. Maybe was it Miss Scarlett in the conservatory. Or Professor Plum in the ballroom.

We know the murder weapon: PowerPoint. But who and where? They’re all over the place.

The sad fact is people are committing Death by PowerPoint in board rooms, conference rooms, hotel ballrooms and just about any place else you find an audience listening to a speaker.

PowerPoint can be a great tool for helping you tell your story when you’re making a presentation. But it’s gotten a bad name because so many speakers use it so badly.

Some tips that will help you avoid committing Death by PowerPoint when making your presentations.

Some PowerPoint Don’ts:

  • Don’t read your slides to your audience. They’ve already read them. If you’re a parent, you’ve probably spent some time reading to your kid(s). Good for you. But if you read to your audience during a presentation while they’re reading along, bad for you. This is the Number 1 cause of Death by PowerPoint.
  • Don’t fill your slides with words. My suggestion: No more than six bullets per slide and no more than six words per bullet. Those are maximums, not minimums. You need more words than that? Break them into multiple slides. You use that many words on every slide? Wake me up when you’re done.
  • Don’t use font sizes too small to be read. Any text on your slides should be readable by the people sitting in the back row.
  • Don’t use too many different fonts or too many font sizes. I suggest you limit your PowerPoint presentations to one of these fonts: Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman. Skip the unusual fonts. They can be fun. But they’re distracting. Most of them don’t look professional. And some of them are hard to read.
  • Don’t overuse bold, italics and underlining. They’re great for adding emphasis. But they can’t do their job if you use them too often.
  • Don’t use fancy animations and slide transitions. PowerPoint is loaded with text animations and slide transitions that bounce and roll and move up and down or side to side. Don’t use them. You want your audience to focus on your message, not the PowerPoint toys.
  • Don’t put light-colored text on light-colored backgrounds or dark-colored text on dark-colored backgrounds. The more contrast between the color of your background and the color of your text, the better.
  • Don’t make the room too dark. Turning down the lights so people can see your slides is okay. Turning off the lights so they can’t see you isn’t. You’re the star of your presentation. Your slides are the supporting cast. Not vice versa.

Some PowerPoint Do’s:

  • Use pictures, lots of pictures. I recommend putting an image on every slide. Okay, you may not succeed in putting an image on every slide. But word-only slides should be the exception, not the rule. Good pictures that fill an entire slide are powerful. They’ll jazz up your presentation. And make it more enjoyable and easier to remember. A slide with a big picture and three or four words can say more than a slide packed with verbiage.
  • Use PowerPoint as a roadmap, not a script. Every slide in your presentation should be there to help you make a specific point. And it should be there to help your audience remember it. A picture makes it easier for your audience to remember your message.  And your audience will enjoy your presentation more if you talk to them than if you read to them. Know what point you want to make when a given slide is on the screen. Tell us what it is. Then move on to the next slide.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?


Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 |

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 11:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros radio show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at on the Internet.

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