Presentation Book
Stand Out

PowerPoint Presentations

Should you create your PowerPoint slides from scratch or should you use a template? On this page we'll look at the advantages and disadvantages of each approach and we'll give you some tips to improve your results whatever you decide to go.

You'll also find links to other resources that will make a dramatic difference to your presentations. If you're interested in using the Scratch programming language with PowerPoint click: Scratch programming.

Make the most of PowerPoint™

Powerpoint™ is powerful - but it can be challenging to create really professional-looking results. On this page you can discover how to get great results in almost no time. Presentations are really important Each presentation you make will add or subtract from your business reputation. You can use the opportunity to impress the people that matter but if your presentations aren't better than average that's not going to happen.

Avoid being a PowerPointSlob™

A PowerPointSlob™ is someone who is totally unaware that their presentation is boring - even though it's been thrown together in a few minutes. This type of presentation is an insult to the audience but the PowerPointSlob™ really believes it's acceptable. Take our PowerPointSlob™ test and find out who is the resident PowerPointSlob™ in your organization. You'll also get some pointers about what to avoid.

Template Choices

Let's compare using a PowerPoint™ template with developing a presentation from scratch. There are several sub-choices in each case. For example, the easiest thing to do is just load a standard PowerPoint template from your PowerPoint directory. Alternatively you could download a free template or buy one that's been custom designed for a specific purpose. There are advantages and disadvantages in each case. Let's look at some of them:

(1) Use Templates Templates are pages that have already been designed and formatted. In theory all you need to do is fill in the blanks. The downside? Most templates are similar in appearance and you end up with a PowerPoint presentation that looks like all the other PowerPoint presentations your audience has seen. You won't stand out.

If you are going to use a template then you should choose carefully and make sure that it meets your exact needs. You will probably have to pay for it but if it complements your message and helps you get your key points across then it's a worthwhile investment. You can also use backgrounds to enhance your presentation. Backgrounds can be used on specific pages to provide atmosphere. Ideally you should choose a theme that complements your message. You can download free PowerPoint backgrounds.

(2) Design a presentation from scratch The second option is to use your design skills to develop something that does stand out - in other words, develop your own unique presentation. However, if you're going to take this route you must make sure that it's polished and professional because your reputation depends on it.

Many businesspeople "design" their presentation by choosing a standard background and then use default values for text boxes, fonts, spacing, transitions, etc. The typical result, unfortunately, looks boring at best - even to the casual eye. If you're going to design your own presentation from scratch here are a few tips:

Design your presentation

In this section we'll consider three key design areas that are overlooked by many presenters. With a little thought you can use them to design a very good presentation. The most important elements The most important element of any presentation is your message. If it's not relevant or appropriate for the audience then no amount of design expertise is going to make a difference. However, you could have a perfectly crafted message and still fail to make your sale because your presentation lacks credibility - because it doesn't look professional.

Design Area 1 - Background

Let's start with the background. A plain white or colored background won't look professional unless there are strong design elements in the foreground. That usually means you need photographs, drawings, diagrams or animations . If your only foreground element is text (it shouldn't be) you'll need a more elaborate background. Many off-the-peg backgrounds use a graduated colors scheme. You need to make sure that the color of your text doesn't clash with the background and (even more important) doesn't disappear where the colors are similar. In general, graduated color schemes have had their day and should be avoided if possible.

Design Area 2 - Fonts

One reason that many PowerPoint presentations look the same is because the designer hasn't bothered changing the fonts. Ariel is the default font for most presentations followed by Times New Roman and a handful of others. The few people that do change fonts often go completely over the top. You probably have scores of fonts on your computer. Look through them and select two conservative-looking ones for your next presentation. Select a sans-serf and a serf and use one for the major headings and one for the bullet text.

Design Area 3 - Layout

The eye is amazingly good at identifying elements that are misaligned. You can look at a PowerPoint presentation and immediately tell there's something wrong without even realizing what's causing it. It might be as simple as a text element that doesn't line up with a box on the page. When you're laying out PowerPoint presentations start by looking at the background. Are there any lines, boxes or color changes that should be used as a primary or secondary reference?

Use the design features of PowerPoint - like the built-in guidelines - to their full advantage. Use the guidelines to position each element. Make sure that the positioning (and the font size for each element) is constant throughout the entire presentation - not just on a single page.

Close scrutiny

The presentation layout is very important because your audience will be looking at it for far longer than they'd spend looking at any other document with a similar amount of content. It's also up on the big screen so they'll see the smallest design flaws and judge your presentation accordingly.

Bullet Points Bullets points alone are not a good idea. There is strong evidence that they actually detract from the message rather than complementing it. You'll find more information about this in other articles on this site - but the rules are simple:

(1) Never use bullet points
(2) If you have to - never use more than three words in any bullet point
(3) Always complement the bullet points with graphics.

Use Graphics

Graphics are essential. Each page should have a photograph, a drawing, a diagram, or an animation. Don't use the clip art that comes with the package. The graphic you use should relate directly to the point you're making. Don't use bland symbols (like two hands shaking or a skyscraper) unless you can come up with a new slant on it.

Use Animated Graphics

Animated graphics can be very powerful - but (again) they must be directly related to the point you are making in that specific slide. If you choose properly they are very powerful because they will draw attention to your key points.


The Science of Presentations

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Art & Science


There's so much to remember. And if you forget anything crucial you'll have wasted everyone's time - and the golden opportunity to further your career.

It's really worth while finding out how to do it properly. Good presentations take effort - but it's a lot easier if you know exactly what to do. And that's why we created our new e-handbook.

It's called "The Art & Science of Presentations" and it's a completely new concept for any book - there's no fillers and no waste.

This handbook uses the minimum number of words (probably less than in this article) and yet pack more useful information than a small library. It does that by it's use of graphics and color and it's careful choice of concepts.

I promise you - you have never seen anything
like it before.

You can find out more here:
The Art & Science of Presentations.


The 5- minute presentation

Topics from
The Art & Science of Presentations

Here's a list of topics from the book:

Section 1: How to manage your appearance

Section 2: How to move around the stage

Section 3: How to speak

Section 4: How to choose visuals

Section 5: How to use technology properly

Section 6: How to set up the venue

Section 7: How to analyze the audience

Section 8: How to use 9 presentation secrets

Section 9: How to develop the content

Section 10: How to construct the presentation

Section 11: How to prepare for the presentation

Section 12: How to give the presentation

Section 13: How to complete the presentation

If you have a question about this new approach to presentations - just click on the red button!