All Articles Leadership #ASTD2011: 7 tips to enhance your next presentation

#ASTD2011: 7 tips to enhance your next presentation

3 min read


There appears to be some noticeable trends when Microsoft PowerPoint is concerned. The first is elimination. Obviously, there’s a big problem with this option – with what do you replace it? The other trend is creating a deck of nothing but beautiful photos with no text.

While I think both of these techniques might have their advantages in the right situation, there are times when we have to create a PowerPoint presentation with words and bullet points. Call it old school, but in some highly regulated professions or certain educational events, traditional PowerPoint slides are de rigueur.

That doesn’t mean slides have to be boring. Barbara Roche from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania offered recommendations during her session at the American Society for Training & Development’s 2011 International Conference & Exposition in Orlando, Fla. Her approach is to have PowerPoint complement your spoken presentation, not compete with it. Some of her suggestions:

  • Use a 50-50 ratio. Design your session in such a way that you are speaking half of the time, with PowerPoint only half of the content. Not every thought needs a slide. Too many words will take participants off what you are saying and focus on slides.
  • Distinguish between displays and handouts. There might be detailed information contained in the presentation. Use a handout instead of a PowerPoint slide to cover the information.
  • Incomplete sentences are allowed. A good guideline is six words per line and no more than six lines per slide. Omit pronouns in your wording. Try using only two fonts, and keep with large sans serif fonts (at least 32 points).
  • Put information on multiple slides. If you’re in an industry in which you have to show a full sentence or paragraph on a slide — for example, a regulation — break up the information into multiple slides. Consider having a visual slide to introduce the idea, then a slide with a high-level overview and finally slides that go into detail.
  • Highlight key take-aways. Use a kicker box, a framed text box in a different color, to emphasize an important point. If you need more space, try a jolt slide, which has a different background. When placed in the deck, it will jolt or stand out to viewers. It’s a great way to break up visuals.
  • Animation can be your friend. Instead of using animation on every slide, use it to make a central point stand out. It also breaks up visuals for the audience.
  • Pay extra attention to slide headers. Roche said they should contain messages versus topic titles and serve as an outline of key take-aways.

As much as we might want to rid ourselves of PowerPoint, when done properly, it can enhance the session experience. Got any tried-and-true PowerPoint tips? Share them in the comments.

Image credit: davidf via