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Making a Point Using PowerPoint

2010 November 8
tags: Getting Things Done, GTD, Leading, PowerPoint, Productivity
by Andrew   

effective powerpointDo you have a point to make?  Does it require PowerPoint to make it?  Do you think your point requires PowerPoint for you to make it?  If you’re ready to pull your hair out and throw it at that one presenter whose presentations always provoke nausea, headaches, and spatial disorientation from the jumble on the slides, read on…

You may be asking what another lecture on PowerPoint skills has to do with GTD.  I’m glad you asked!  If you’re wasting time assembling ineffective presentations, and then – horror of horrors – presenting them, you’re not only making yourself less productive, you’re making your audience less productive.  Your time is wasted, their time is wasted, everyone’s brain is numbed, and the point is lost.

I know this is an eye chart, but…

The image is one of several never-do-this slides from Alexei Kapterev’s excellent “Death By Powerpoint” presentation.  I recommend viewing the presentation if you’ve never seen it.  It takes about five minutes to watch the entire thing if you don’t fast-forward through the slides.  The message is well worth getting.  One of my least favorite statements from a presenter is “I know this is an eye chart, but…”  Well, WTH are you showing it for if no one can read it?  To show you knew how to insert it?  To show you have a very busy chart that probably can’t be comprehended even in wall-chart size?  To fill space in the presentation while you talk?  None of these are good reasons for displaying an image no one can possibly read.  It makes you look like you didn’t care enough to make a useful presentation.

Following a few simple suggestions (they aren’t rules!) can improve your presentations – and their impact – dramatically.

Six Feet Away

  • Build your presentation
  • Review the slides from six feet away from a standard desktop monitor
  • If you can’t read the presentation from there, chances are no one will be able to read it in a conference room


  • Have an agenda slide, especially if you have multiple sections in your presentation
  • Don’t read the agenda slide
  • Highlight the section you’re about to enter and quickly advance the slide


  • Whitespace is your friend
  • A cluttered text slide is no better than a cluttered graphics slide
  • Don’t rigidly adhere to the “rules” like seven-words-to-a line, or seven-lines-to-a-page
  • If it doesn’t look good to you and a couple of other people, it won’t look good when presented

No crazy fonts or colors

  • Don’t use wild colors, many different font sizes, or widely varying font sizes, unless you’re in an industry that clearly values nonconformity or a lot of visual creativity
  • Use a few different font sizes consistently if you need to highlight a section or make a point, or set the text off with a colored box
  • Keep the majority of the font size and type consistent throughout your presentation

The point of the slides

  • The audience reads faster than you talk.  If the slide says everything, you’re the wasted resource.
  • Identify the main points using the slides
  • Slides should reinforce your talking points, and provide a reference for later if anyone took notes on handouts.
  • Print two sets of slides, unless your organization frowns on it.  One should be a full-page printout of each slide (you can print double-sided if you want to save paper), and the other should be a notes handout.  If your slides are full of graphics, most pens won’t write over printer ink.
  • Don’t use clip-art in professional presentations!  Use professional stock images or images to which you or your organization hold rights, and use them to enhance the presentation rather than occupy space on a page.

What’s the action?

  • Make it readily clear what the “takeaway” is from the presentation…the audience needs to have learned something (educating), someone in the audience needs to make a decision (influencing), or the audience needs to be aware of something new or changed (informing)
  • “Takeaways” may need to appear at the end of each slide, each section, or just at the end of the presentation, depending on the complexity of the information and the content of the presentation.  Keep it simple and reference backup information if more than a sentence or two is necessary.


  • Don’t repeat everything you presented!
  • Reiterate the high points!
  • Identify once again if anyone has actions, or decisions that need to be made have yet to be communicated!

Now, go make a point!  Effectively.

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