Design, How To's

6 pre-PowerPoint tips + 1 PowerPoint tip for creating effective presentations

Raise your hand if you’ve ever watched or presented a really long, text-heavy and overly-designed PowerPoint presentation … is your hand raised? Mine is.

A lot of raised hands

I have strong opinions when it comes to presentations. I also have a strong dislike for PowerPoint (to be fair, I also feel the same way about Keynote, but only reference PowerPoint because it’s more common), but understand it’s a necessary evil. And because of that, I’d love to inspire some change. A change in the way we feel about PowerPoint (especially me!) and the way we approach, create and deliver presentations.

Has PowerPoint become a security blanket?

Let’s do away with PowerPoints just for the sake of PowerPoints. No more internal meetings that include presentations with the words you are saying on it. Have faith that people are capable of listening and responding without words projected on the wall. If you need to have an agenda – include it in the meeting invitation. Or print it out. Let’s disconnect and just have a productive conversation.

But if you must create a presentation, do these things before opening PowerPoint…

1. Know your audience.
Who are they? What are they interested in? How technical are they? How much time do they have? All of this will inform the amount of information you present, and at what level – technical vs. high level. Even if you’ve given the presentation multiple times, tailor it for your audience. The more you can speak directly to them, the better.

2. Decide how your presentation is going to be used.
To me, presentations and PowerPoint decks are two different things. In a lot of cases, these terms are used interchangeably. But for the sake of this article, we are going to talk about them separately.

Multiple slides from a PowerPoint
DECK. Information gathered and shared (often used internally)
Woman giving a presentation
PRESENTATION. Standing in front of a group of people, talking about a topic






A presentation and a deck should be approached differently. The content in a deck generally needs to stand on its own. No explanation needed. Presentations need a guide. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to present in front of a group of people AND give them the presentation, then have really good notes (see #7) in your presentation or create a separate leave-behind with the important information. Yes, it’s more work, but your audience will appreciate it.

3. Pick 3 (or less!) key messages you want your audience to walk away with.
You probably have a ton of information to present, but be mindful of your audience and pick 3 (or less) key messages you want them to understand and remember, and build your presentation around those. And make sure you are educational. Folks are there to learn!

4. Be relatable.
Include some personal stories or anecdotes that relate to your topic. Use humor to create rapport and make your presentation more memorable. Especially at the beginning of your presentation since attention spans are shorter than ever. Did you know you now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish? Painting a picture in the minds of the audience is my favorite way to be relatable and start a presentation. It’s a great way to get them involved right away, and set the stage for the topic. Here are some other powerful ways to start a presentation.

5. Focus on being engaging – NOT on your content.
One of the bigger mistakes I see people making is paying too much attention to their content on the slides. Trying to make the slides perfect. The thing is, the audience is there to LISTEN to you present. Having immaculately designed and worded slides is awesome. I’m all for it. But not if you don’t put any effort into being engaging. Are you being relatable? (see #4) Are you challenging them? Making them think? Giving them something to walk away with? (see #3)

After a presentation, 63% of attendees remember stories.
Only 5% remember statistics. – Chip & Dan Heath.

6. Create an outline.PowerPoint outline
Start by putting your thoughts on paper.  Outlines help give you structure, and will organize your thoughts from start to finish. I like to sketch my ideas out with tiny slides on a page to better understand the flow. But a simple outline written out works well. This way, you can clearly see where your key messages are (see #3), and how you can work in some relatable stories (see #4).

+1. Start with the notes section.
Finally! This is what you’ve been waiting for … it’s time to start entering all this great stuff into PowerPoint. By now, you probably have a pretty good narrative going in your head. Instead of diving in and filling up your slides, type your thoughts in the notes section of PowerPoint to help avoid putting too much on each slide. That way you can take a holistic view of your presentation, and better understand how to add images and words to SUPPORT what you are saying, and not be a teleprompter for what you are saying.

Really great examples of effective presentations … about effective presentations.




Stay tuned for the next blog: Slides are FREE! Use them.

Jamie Webb

curious. creative. professional chameleon.

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One Comment

  • Hello Jamie, these are some really awesome tips on PowerPoint, great share! Liked the attached ppt presentations examples, they are really good.

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