guidelines for making a powerpoint presentation

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PowerPoint Tips  - Simple Rules for Better PowerPoint Presentations

Powerpoint tips  -, simple rules for better powerpoint presentations, powerpoint tips simple rules for better powerpoint presentations.

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PowerPoint Tips: Simple Rules for Better PowerPoint Presentations

Lesson 17: simple rules for better powerpoint presentations.

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Simple rules for better PowerPoint presentations

Have you ever given a PowerPoint presentation and noticed that something about it just seemed a little … off? If you’re unfamiliar with basic PowerPoint design principles, it can be difficult to create a slide show that presents your information in the best light.

Poorly designed presentations can leave an audience feeling confused, bored, and even irritated. Review these tips to make your next presentation more engaging.

Don't read your presentation straight from the slides

If your audience can both read and hear, it’s a waste of time for you to simply read your slides aloud. Your audience will zone out and stop listening to what you’re saying, which means they won’t hear any extra information you include.

Instead of typing out your entire presentation, include only main ideas, keywords, and talking points in your slide show text. Engage your audience by sharing the details out loud.

Follow the 5/5/5 rule

To keep your audience from feeling overwhelmed, you should keep the text on each slide short and to the point. Some experts suggest using the 5/5/5 rule : no more than five words per line of text, five lines of text per slide, or five text-heavy slides in a row.

slide with too much text versus a slide with just enough text

Don't forget your audience

Who will be watching your presentation? The same goofy effects and funny clip art that would entertain a classroom full of middle-school students might make you look unprofessional in front of business colleagues and clients.

Humor can lighten up a presentation, but if you use it inappropriately your audience might think you don’t know what you’re doing. Know your audience, and tailor your presentation to their tastes and expectations.

Choose readable colors and fonts

Your text should be easy to read and pleasant to look at. Large, simple fonts and theme colors are always your best bet. The best fonts and colors can vary depending on your presentation setting. Presenting in a large room? Make your text larger than usual so people in the back can read it. Presenting with the lights on? Dark text on a light background is your best bet for visibility.

Screenshot of Microsoft PowerPoint

Don't overload your presentation with animations

As anyone who’s sat through a presentation while every letter of every paragraph zoomed across the screen can tell you, being inundated with complicated animations and exciting slide transitions can become irritating.

Before including effects like this in your presentation, ask yourself: Would this moment in the presentation be equally strong without an added effect? Does it unnecessarily delay information? If the answer to either question is yes—or even maybe—leave out the effect.

Use animations sparingly to enhance your presentation

Don’t take the last tip to mean you should avoid animations and other effects entirely. When used sparingly, subtle effects and animations can add to your presentation. For example, having bullet points appear as you address them rather than before can help keep your audience’s attention.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you create a presentation—your audience will thank you. For more detailed information on creating a PowerPoint presentation, visit our Office tutorials .

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Making better powerpoint presentations.

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Baddeley and Hitch’s model of working memory.

Research about student preferences for powerpoint, resources for making better powerpoint presentations, bibliography.

We have all experienced the pain of a bad PowerPoint presentation. And even though we promise ourselves never to make the same mistakes, we can still fall prey to common design pitfalls.  The good news is that your PowerPoint presentation doesn’t have to be ordinary. By keeping in mind a few guidelines, your classroom presentations can stand above the crowd!

“It is easy to dismiss design – to relegate it to mere ornament, the prettifying of places and objects to disguise their banality. But that is a serious misunderstanding of what design is and why it matters.” Daniel Pink

One framework that can be useful when making design decisions about your PowerPoint slide design is Baddeley and Hitch’s model of working memory .

guidelines for making a powerpoint presentation

As illustrated in the diagram above, the Central Executive coordinates the work of three systems by organizing the information we hear, see, and store into working memory.

The Phonological Loop deals with any auditory information. Students in a classroom are potentially listening to a variety of things: the instructor, questions from their peers, sound effects or audio from the PowerPoint presentation, and their own “inner voice.”

The Visuo-Spatial Sketchpad deals with information we see. This involves such aspects as form, color, size, space between objects, and their movement. For students this would include: the size and color of fonts, the relationship between images and text on the screen, the motion path of text animation and slide transitions, as well as any hand gestures, facial expressions, or classroom demonstrations made by the instructor.

The Episodic Buffer integrates the information across these sensory domains and communicates with long-term memory. All of these elements are being deposited into a holding tank called the “episodic buffer.” This buffer has a limited capacity and can become “overloaded” thereby, setting limits on how much information students can take in at once.

Laura Edelman and Kathleen Harring from Muhlenberg College , Allentown, Pennsylvania have developed an approach to PowerPoint design using Baddeley and Hitch’s model. During the course of their work, they conducted a survey of students at the college asking what they liked and didn’t like about their professor’s PowerPoint presentations. They discovered the following:

Characteristics students don’t like about professors’ PowerPoint slides

  • Too many words on a slide
  • Movement (slide transitions or word animations)
  • Templates with too many colors

Characteristics students like like about professors’ PowerPoint slides

  • Graphs increase understanding of content
  • Bulleted lists help them organize ideas
  • PowerPoint can help to structure lectures
  • Verbal explanations of pictures/graphs help more than written clarifications

According to Edelman and Harring, some conclusions from the research at Muhlenberg are that students learn more when:

  • material is presented in short phrases rather than full paragraphs.
  • the professor talks about the information on the slide rather than having students read it on their own.
  • relevant pictures are used. Irrelevant pictures decrease learning compared to PowerPoint slides with no picture
  • they take notes (if the professor is not talking). But if the professor is lecturing, note-taking and listening decreased learning.
  • they are given the PowerPoint slides before the class.

Advice from Edelman and Harring on leveraging the working memory with PowerPoint:

  • Leverage the working memory by dividing the information between the visual and auditory modality.  Doing this reduces the likelihood of one system becoming overloaded. For instance, spoken words with pictures are better than pictures with text, as integrating an image and narration takes less cognitive effort than integrating an image and text.
  • Minimize the opportunity for distraction by removing any irrelevant material such as music, sound effects, animations, and background images.
  • Use simple cues to direct learners to important points or content. Using text size, bolding, italics, or placing content in a highlighted or shaded text box is all that is required to convey the significance of key ideas in your presentation.
  • Don’t put every word you intend to speak on your PowerPoint slide. Instead, keep information displayed in short chunks that are easily read and comprehended.
  • One of the mostly widely accessed websites about PowerPoint design is Garr Reynolds’ blog, Presentation Zen . In his blog entry:  “ What is Good PowerPoint Design? ” Reynolds explains how to keep the slide design simple, yet not simplistic, and includes a few slide examples that he has ‘made-over’ to demonstrate how to improve its readability and effectiveness. He also includes sample slides from his own presentation about PowerPoint slide design.
  • Another presentation guru, David Paradi, author of “ The Visual Slide Revolution: Transforming Overloaded Text Slides into Persuasive Presentations ” maintains a video podcast series called “ Think Outside the Slide ” where he also demonstrates PowerPoint slide makeovers. Examples on this site are typically from the corporate perspective, but the process by which content decisions are made is still relevant for higher education. Paradi has also developed a five step method, called KWICK , that can be used as a simple guide when designing PowerPoint presentations.
  • In the video clip below, Comedian Don McMillan talks about some of the common misuses of PowerPoint in his routine called “Life After Death by PowerPoint.”

  • This article from The Chronicle of Higher Education highlights a blog moderated by Microsoft’s Doug Thomas that compiles practical PowerPoint advice gathered from presentation masters like Seth Godin , Guy Kawasaki , and Garr Reynolds .

Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story , by Jerry Weissman, Prentice Hall, 2006

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery , by Garr Reynolds, New Riders Press, 2008

Solving the PowerPoint Predicament: using digital media for effective communication , by Tom Bunzel , Que, 2006

The Cognitive Style of Power Point , by Edward R. Tufte, Graphics Pr, 2003

The Visual Slide Revolution: Transforming Overloaded Text Slides into Persuasive Presentations , by Dave Paradi, Communications Skills Press, 2000

Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck: And How You Can Make Them Better , by Rick Altman, Harvest Books, 2007

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The Presenter's Guide to Nailing Your Next PowerPoint

Lindsay Kolowich Cox

Updated: July 27, 2022

Published: February 11, 2021

Have a presentation coming up that involves PowerPoint slides? Creating the content and design for a new presentation can be a daunting task.

guidelines for making a powerpoint presentation

Between outlining, deciding on a design, filling it out, and finalizing the details, it's not uncommon for a few questions to pop up.

Where's the best place to start? Are some steps better to take before others? How can you make sure you aren't missing anything? And how on earth do you master those essential -- yet slightly technical -- design tricks that can take a presentation from good to great?

→ Free Download: 10 PowerPoint Presentation Templates [Access Now]

We're here to make the process a little easier for you. We've talked to some of the best presenters at HubSpot and have included their tips throughout this blog.

With the following tips in your arsenal, you'll be able to navigate PowerPoint much more fluidly and give a standout presentation that'll leave your audience wanting more.

How to Structure a Powerpoint Presentation

1. decide on a working title and the main takeaways..

Beyond picking a topic, your first step should be coming up with a working title for your presentation. A working title is more specific than a topic: Think "How the Right Nutrition Can Strengthen Your Kids' Bones" instead of "Raising Healthy Kids." Keep in mind that a compelling presentation title is much like a compelling blog post title : short, accurate, and valuable.

Once you've got your working title, make a list of the main takeaways of your presentation to begin to give it some structure. This'll help you stay focused when writing your outline and elaborating on those sections.

Aja Frost, the Head of English SEO at HubSpot, says, "I try to structure my presentations around a story. Not only does this make the presentation more memorable and engaging, it's also easier to figure out which information is relevant."

To do this, Frost says to pick a protagonist. She adds, "It might be your team, your audience, your customer.... Then, identify the rising action, problem, climax, and falling action. It's just like grade school. This structure works whether you're talking about an accomplishment, a challenge, a big question—anything, really."

2. Create a short text outline with your audience in mind.

Once you have your main takeaways and your story in mind, it's time to begin outlining the content of your presentation in more detail, while keeping your specific audience in mind. A presentation on any topic should sound different if you're speaking to an audience of college students versus an audience of investors, for example. The tone, words, design, and delivery of your presentation should all cater to your specific audience for maximum impact.

Ask yourself: What do your audience members already know? What new information can you teach them? What are they expecting from your presentation? What's going to be interesting to them? What will keep them focused and engaged? Then, make choices during every stage of the presentation process accordingly.

Justin Champion, a content professor at HubSpot, says, "Before diving into a presentation, I create an outline of how it'll flow. I do this by creating an intro (what they're going to learn), the body (what they're learning), and finish with a conclusion (recap what they just learned) I use bullet point slide a lot for talking points I can expand on. Pro tip: use animations to guide the story. For example, instead of showing all the bullets at once, click through to each via animation."

3. Formulate your content as a narrative, if possible.

This may not apply for more formal presentation that have rigid structures (like performance reports), but for presentations that have more flexibility, presenting your content as a narrative can be much more compelling.

Stories appeal to people's emotional side in ways that information, facts, and figures can't. They help you relate to your audience -- and in turn, they'll make you and your message far more interesting to your audience. They also help make complicated concepts more easily understandable to your audience, who may not share the same experience level or work in the same industry.

Kyle Jepson, a senior professor at HubSpot, says, "Since I’m an educator, I always structure my presentations around the learning outcomes I want to achieve. If there are three things I want my listeners to understand at the end of the presentation, I’ll have three sections. Whenever possible, I put some sort of interactive element at the end of each section to assess their understanding. In a virtual event, this might be a poll or a question for people to respond to in the chat. In an in-person setting, workshop activities or small-group discussions work well."

4. Collect data and examples.

While sweeping statements can help you set the stage, supporting those statements with evidence will make your argument more interesting and credible. Data and examples give your argument content, and people will understand what you're saying much better.

But don't just slap random stats on your slides and expect to "wow" your audience. Be sure your data comes from a reputable source and that you're presenting it in a way that's easy to understand, like through accurate charts and graphs.

Finally, don't overwhelm your audience with too much data. According to psychologist George Miller , we can only remember approximately five to nine bits of information in our short-term memory at any given time. Keep that in mind as you collect your evidence.

5. Engage with your audience.

During a presentation, it's important to connect with your audience. But how can you do that when you're just talking at them?

Anni Kim, an INBOUND professor at HubSpot, says, "Staying engaged during a virtual presentation is tough, so provide plenty of opportunities for participation. You should add a slide at the beginning that points out how people can take advantage of the chat and ask questions throughout the presentation."

Once you've set the expectations, keep up on the chat and answer questions as they arise.

Now that you have a structure in mind, you'll start to write the content. Below, we'll give tips for how to start and end your presentation.

How to Start a Powerpoint Presentation

1. start with a story..

Not to be repetitive, but storytelling is one of the best ways to capture your audience's attention in general. Presentations are no different. Starting with a hook is a great way to get your audience invested in your content.

Champion says, "The best way to start a presentation is with an interesting story that connects to the content. A great way to keep you audience engaged is to make the content interesting."

2. Be yourself.

On the other hand, while you want to tell a story, you also want your audience to connect with you as the presenter.

Jepson says, "During the introduction, I think one of the most important things to do is to set expectations for your style as a presenter. You don't always need to start with a joke or a story. Start out by being you, and then keep being you for as long as you’re on stage."

3. Include surprising or unusual information at the beginning.

While you'll most likely use a standard approach with session title, presenter's bio, and an agenda, you don't want your audience to get bored.

Jepson adds "I think the standard approach (session title, presenter’s bio, agenda) is pretty effective except that it’s usually super boring. I try to include the standard information but sprinkle in things that are surprising or unusual."

Some examples include:

  • Adding a photo of your family on the About Me slide. "A lot of presenters put a picture of themselves on their About Me slide. But I think that’s silly because I’m standing right there," Jepson says. "If people don’t know what I look like, they will by the end of the presentation! So I’ve started putting a picture of my wife and kids on that slide and saying something sweet or silly about that."
  • Asking people to use their phones. "A lot of in-person presentations start with a request to silence cell phones," Jepson comments. "Sometimes I’ll do the opposite and say something like, 'Before we get started, I want you all to pull out your phones. You probably think I’m going to ask you to silence them. But I’m not. I’m here from HubSpot, and I’m here to help you however I can. So if there’s anyone from your team who might have questions or need help from a HubSpotter, I want you to send them a message and tell them to send their questions to you before we get to the Q&A section of presentation. To give you time to do this, I’m going to send a text to my wife to let her know I made it here safely.' And then I’ll literally pull out my phone and send a text message on stage."

Now that you've structured your post and have ironed out the details of your introduction, it's time to work on the end of the presentation.

How to End a Powerpoint Presentation

1. recap what the audience has learned..

First and foremost, the end of your presentation should tie everything together.

Champion adds, "Recap what they just learned, explain next steps based on learnings, and offer any associated resources to continue learning."

This will help people remember the content and give them resources to learn more or reach out if they have questions.

2. Q&A.

Another great way to end a presentation is with a Q&A.

Jepson remarks, "I always end with Q&A. The only tricky thing about that is knowing how to cut it off if you’re getting more questions than you have time to answer or if you aren’t getting any questions at all. In both of those situations, I do essentially the same: I cut it off and tell people to come talk to me individually."

For in-person meetings, Jepson will tell the audience to come find him after the presentation to ask more questions. However, for virtual meetings, he'll let people know how to reach him, whether that's via LinkedIn or email.

3. Call to action.

Calls to action are an important component of any piece of content and presentations are no different. What do you want your audience to do with this information?

In your recap, include actionable ways for your audience to incorporate your information into their day-to-day (if applicable). You can also let people know to reach out to you with questions so they know the next steps in case they want to discuss the presentation further.

Now that you have an idea of what you're going to be talking about and how you'll be laying it out, it's time to open up a new PowerPoint presentation and apply those basic design elements.

Outlining Your PowerPoint Design

1. pick a color scheme..

Before you begin translating your text outline into PowerPoint, you'll want to start by adding some very basic design elements to your PowerPoint slides. First, choose a color scheme -- one that has enough contrast between colors to make colors stand out. Whether you decide to use two, three, or four different colors in your presentation is up to you, but certain color combinations go together better than others. Read the sections on creating color schemes in this blog post to figure out a good color combination.

Color scheme examples.

Image Source

2. Design your slide backgrounds.

In PowerPoint, less is more. You don’t ever want to let the design distract from your message. But at the same time, you want to get more creative than a plain, white background -- even if you're going for a very simple design.

The three main ways to add a background design to a PowerPoint presentation are: 1) to use a predesigned template from PowerPoint; 2) to create a custom background using a solid color; or 3) to create a custom background using an image. Here's how to do each of those things.

(We also have a few general PowerPoint templates available for download here , which come with a series of videos to teach you some basic PowerPoint creation tips.)

How to Browse Predesigned Templates in PowerPoint

PowerPoint comes with a series of predesigned templates to choose from.

To browse these templates on a Mac: Click on the slide or slides you want to add the background to. Then, click the "Themes" tab at the top of the screen.

PowerPoint themes.

You can either scroll through your options up there, or you can access the themes gallery in a bigger window by hovering your mouse over the theme previews and clicking the dropdown arrow that appears below them.

Right-click the background style that you want. To apply the background style to the selected slides, click "Apply to Selected Slides." To apply the background style to all of the slides in your presentation, click "Apply to All Slides."

To browse these templates on a PC: Click on the slide or slides you want to add the background to. Then, click the "Design" tab at the top of the screen. In the "Background" group, click the arrow next to "Background Styles" to open up the theme gallery.

PC PowerPoint themes.

Pro Tip: You can also apply any PowerPoint template you already have as a theme, even if it doesn't show up in the theme gallery. To do that, click the "Browse Themes" option you'll find at the bottom of the dropdown themes gallery, and navigate to wherever the given presentation, template, or theme is located on your computer. Then, click "Apply."

How to Create a Custom Background Using a Solid Color

Want your slide background to be a simple, solid color? The steps to do this are almost identical on a Mac and a PC.

Simply right-click the slide(s) you want to add a background color to, then click "Format Background." In the window that appears, click "Fill" and then "Solid." Notice you can also adjust the gradient or make the background a pattern. Click "Apply" at the bottom to apply the changes.

PowerPoint formatting background.

How to Create a Custom Background Using an Image

Sometimes, making the slide background a high-definition image can really make that slide pop. It also encourages you to cut down on text so that only a few keywords complement the image. PowerPoint makes it easy to create a custom background using an image you own.

PowerPoint with an image as the background.

First, choose your image. Size matters here: Be sure it's high resolution so that it can fill your slide without becoming blurry or distorted. Here are the 17 best free stock photo sites to help you find some large, great quality images.

To create a custom background using an image on a Mac: Click the slide that you want to add a background picture to. To select multiple slides, click a slide and then press and hold CTRL while you click the other slides.

Next, click the "Themes" tab at the top of your screen. In the "Theme Options" group, click "Background," then "Format Background."

PowerPoint formatting background.

In the window that appears, click "Fill," then "Picture or Texture." To insert a picture from a file, click "Choose Picture..." and then locate and double-click the picture you want to insert. If you want to use this picture as a background for just the slides you selected, click "Apply." If you want to use the picture as a background for all the slides in your presentation, click "Apply to All."

To create a custom background using an image on a PC: Click the slide that you want to add a background picture to. To select multiple slides, click a slide and then press and hold CTRL while you click the other slides.

Next, click the "Design" tab at the top of your screen. In the "Background" group, click "Background Styles," then "Format Background."

In the window that appears, click "Fill," then "Picture or texture fill." To insert a picture from a file, click "File" and then locate and double-click the picture you want to insert. If you want to use this picture as a background for just the slides you selected, click "Close." If you want to use the picture as a background for all the slides in your presentation, click "Apply to All."

Filling In the Content

1. fill in the text on your slides using concise language..

Your slides are there to support your speech, not replace it. If your slides contain too much information -- like full sentences or (gasp) paragraphs -- then your audience members won't be able to help but read the slides instead of listening to you. Plus ... that's boring. Instead, use slides to enhance keywords and show visuals while you stand up there and do the real work: telling a story and describing your data.

When it comes to your slide text, focus on the main phrases of a bullet point, and cover details verbally. We recommend using up to three bullet points per slide and making any text as simple and concise as possible. A good rule of thumb is this: If you're using more than two lines per slide or per idea, then you've used too much text. Depending on the type of presentation, two lines might even be a little text-heavy.

Are you planning on sending your slides to your audience afterward? If you're concerned about putting enough information on the slides for people to understand your presentation when they go back to it later, you can always add little details into the slide notes in PowerPoint. You can find the Notes pane at the bottom of your PowerPoint screen, right below your slides. Click and drag the edge of the pane to make it larger or smaller.

PowerPoint slides with notes.

2. Brainstorm your final title with someone else.

Once all your content is there, you're ready to finalize your title. First, refine your working title as best you can on your own. Is it compelling and interesting enough to engage your audience from the very start? Does it accurately reflect your presentation?

Next -- and this is important -- connect with someone else to brainstorm the final title together. Read this blog post for a helpful walkthrough on writing a great title and title brainstorming with others.

Filling In Your PowerPoint Design

1. choose a font that's easy to read..

Choose either one font to use throughout your presentation, or two (one for your headers and one for your body text) that contrast each other well. Here's a list of 35 beautiful fonts you can download for free to get you started.

If you decide on two fonts, your header font should be bold and eye-catching, and your body text font should be simple and easy to read. (For more guidance on what fonts work best together, take a look at this visual guide .)

2. Embed your font files.

Fonts changing from one computer to another is one of the most common problems PowerPoint presenters have -- and it can really mess up your presentation and flow. What's actually happening in this case is not that the fonts are changing; it's that the presentation computer just doesn’t have the same font files installed .

If you’re using a PC and presenting on a PC, then there is a smooth workaround for this issue. When you involve Mac systems, the solution is a bit rougher.

On a PC: When you save your PowerPoint file, click "Save As" and then "Save Options." Then, select the "Embed TrueType fonts" check box and press "OK." Now, your presentation will keep the font file and your fonts will not change when you move computers (unless you give your presentation on a Mac).

On a Mac: In PowerPoint for Mac, there's no option to embed fonts within the presentation. So unless you use ubiquitous typefaces like Arial or Tahoma, your PowerPoint is likely going to encounter font changes on different computers. The best way to avoid this is to save the final version of your presentation slides as JPEGs, and then insert those JPEGs onto your PowerPoint slides. In other words, make each slide a JPEG picture of your slide. (Note that the file size of your PowerPoint will increase if your presentation includes a lot of JPEGs.)

Mac users can easily drag and drop the JPEGs into PowerPoint. If you don't use actions in your presentation, then this option works especially well.

If you want your presentation to appear "animated," then you'll need to do a little tinkering. All you need to do is save JPEGs of each "frame" of the animation. Then, in your final presentation, you'll just display those JPEGs in the order you'd like the animation to appear. While you'll technically have several new slides in place of one original one, your audience won't know the difference.

If you're a Mac user and want to use this option, then be sure to add this to your checklist as the final step.

3. Adjust the font sizes.

Once you've chosen your font, you can start playing around with font size. Carefully choose the font sizes for headers and text, and consistently use the same font face and sizes on all your slides to keep things clean and legible. Be sure your font is big enough so even the audience members in the way back of the room can read them.

4. Adjust line and character spacing.

The biggest PowerPoint no-no is using too much text on a slide. The most effective slides use text sparingly and present it in a way that's easy to read. One trick to make text more legible without changing the font size or layout is to increase or decrease the space between each line and each letter.

To adjust line spacing:

Select the text you'd like to adjust. On the "Home" tab, in the "Paragraph" group, click "Line Spacing" and choose "Line Spacing Options." In the Paragraph dialog box's "Spacing" section, click the "Line Spacing" dropdown list and choose "Exactly." In the "At" text box, adjust the value accordingly. Click "OK" to save your changes.

PowerPoint line spacing.

To adjust character spacing:

Select the text you want to change. Then, on the "Home" tab, find and click the "Font" button." Choose "Character Spacing Options" from the dropdown menu. Adjust spacing as needed.

PowerPoint character spacing.

5. Add images.

Great visual cues can have a huge impact on how well your audience understands your message. Using gorgeous images in a slide presentation is the perfect way to keep things interesting.

It's important, though, that you don't use images to decorate. This is a very common mistake. Remember: Images are meant to reinforce or complement your message, but they can be distracting. Focus on finding high resolution images so that they look good when expanded without becoming blurry or distorted.

If you don't have your own images to use, check out our roundup of the 17 best free stock photo sites .

Pro Tip: If you're finding that the background of an image is distracting, you can actually remove it before putting it into your presentation directly inside PowerPoint -- no Photoshop required. Read this blog post for instructions .

Image with and without background.

6. Use multimedia, but sparingly.

Using multimedia in your presentation, like video and audio, can be an effective way to capture your audience's attention and encourage retention of your message. In most cases, it's best to avoid using more than one or two video or audio clips so you don't detract from your talk or your message.

PowerPoint lets you either link to video/audio files externally, or embed the media directly in your presentation. You should embed these files if you can, but if you use a Mac, you cannot actually embed the video. We'll get to that in a second.

PC users: Here are two great reasons to embed your multimedia:

  • Embedding allows you to play media directly in your presentation. It'll look much more professional than switching between windows.
  • Embedding also means that the file stays within the PowerPoint presentation, so it should play normally without extra work (except on a Mac).

Mac users: You need to be extra careful about using multimedia files. You'll always need to bring the video and/or audio file with you in the same folder as the PowerPoint presentation. It’s best to only insert video or audio files once the presentation and the containing folder have been saved on a portable drive in their permanent folder. You can also record voiceovers for your presentation or hire a voice actor through Voice123 .

If your presentation is going to be played on a Windows computer, then Mac users need to make sure their multimedia files are in WMV format . That can get complicated, so if you want to use PowerPoint effectively, consider using the same operating system for designing and presenting no matter what (if that's something you can control).

7. Design your title slide.

The title of your presentation is often the first impression it gives off -- especially if it's going to be on display as people file in to your presentation -- so it's important to put some time and careful thought into its design.

Here are 20 layout ideas for PowerPoint title slides from Chris Lema :

8. Add any consistent elements, like your company logo.

There's a reason this is at the end. If you add things like your logo that you want to be in the same place on every slide, any adjustments you make to individual slides could slightly alter the alignment ... and you'll have to go back and adjust them all over again.

Preparing For the Presentation

1. review and edit your slides..

Spend some time on your own flipping through your slides while practicing your talk. Make sure you can check all of the following off the list:

  • Your slides flow well and align with your talk.
  • Your slides are free of all grammatical, formatting, or design errors.
  • Your multimedia files work.
  • You've double-checked any mathematical calculations you made yourself.
  • You've properly attributed any statistics, data, quotes, ideas, etc. to the original source.
  • You've double-checked you're actually allowed to use the photos/images you used . (Don't skip this step. Here's a cautionary tale about internet copyright law .)
  • You're sure nothing in your presentation could potentially harm any of your partners, stakeholders, audience members, or your company.
  • You've checked with a friend that nothing in your presentation might offend certain people in your audience -- or, if so, that it's worth it.

2. Know your slides inside out.

The best presenters don't read off your slides, so it's important to prepare and practice your presentation ahead of time. You never want to be the person finalizing your talk or presentation half an hour before an event ... that's just poor planning. Plus, what if the projector fails and you have to give your talk without slides? It can happen, and if does, you'll be incredibly happy you spent so much time preparing.

3. Practice using "presenter view."

Depending on the venue, you might have a presenter's screen available to you in addition to the main projected display that your audience can see. PowerPoint has a great tool called "Presenter View," which includes an area for notes, a timer/clock, a presentation display, and a preview of the next slide.

Make sure "Presenter View" is turned on by selecting it in the "Slide Show" tab of your PowerPoint.

To practice using "Presenter View," open the "Slide Show" tab within PowerPoint. In the "Presenter Tools" box, click "Presenter View."

PowerPoint presenter view.

4. Bring your own laptop and a backup copy of your presentation.

This isn't just a bonus step -- it's an essential one. Technology can mess up on you, and you need to be prepared. Between operating systems or even between different versions of Microsoft Office, PowerPoint can get a little wonky. One way to avoid problems is to ensure you have all the right hardware with you. Bring along your own laptop when you're presenting, just in case.

Even if you bring your laptop, but especially if you for some reason cannot, bring a backup copy of your PowerPoint file on a flash drive.

What other tips do you have for nailing PowerPoint presentations?

Editor's note: This post was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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How to Make a PowerPoint Presentation (Step-by-Step)

  • PowerPoint Tutorials
  • Presentation Design
  • January 22, 2024

In this beginner’s guide, you will learn step-by-step how to make a PowerPoint presentation from scratch.

While PowerPoint is designed to be intuitive and accessible, it can be overwhelming if you’ve never gotten any training on it before. As you progress through this guide, you’ll will learn how to move from blank slides to PowerPoint slides that look like these.

Example of the six slides you'll learn how to create in this tutorial

Table of Contents

Additionally, as you create your presentation, you’ll also learn tricks for working more efficiently in PowerPoint, including how to:

  • Change the slide order
  • Reset your layout
  • Change the slide dimensions
  • Use PowerPoint Designer
  • Format text
  • Format objects
  • Play a presentation (slide show)

With this knowledge under your belt, you’ll be ready to start creating PowerPoint presentations. Moreover, you’ll have taken your skills from beginner to proficient in no time at all. I will also include links to more advanced PowerPoint topics.

Ready to start learning how to make a PowerPoint presentation?

Take your PPT skills to the next level

Start with a blank presentation.

Note: Before you open PowerPoint and start creating your presentation, make sure you’ve collected your thoughts. If you’re going to make your slides compelling, you need to spend some time brainstorming.

For help with this, see our article with tips for nailing your business presentation  here .

The first thing you’ll need to do is to open PowerPoint. When you do, you are shown the Start Menu , with the Home tab open.

This is where you can choose either a blank theme (1) or a pre-built theme (2). You can also choose to open an existing presentation (3).

For now, go ahead and click on the  Blank Presentation (1)  thumbnail.

In the backstage view of PowerPoint you can create a new blank presentation, use a template, or open a recent file

Doing so launches a brand new and blank presentation for you to work with. Before you start adding content to your presentation, let’s first familiarize ourselves with the PowerPoint interface.

The PowerPoint interface

Picture of the different parts of the PowerPoint layout, including the Ribbon, thumbnail view, quick access toolbar, notes pane, etc.

Here is how the program is laid out:

  • The Application Header
  • The Ribbon (including the Ribbon tabs)
  • The Quick Access Toolbar (either above or below the Ribbon)
  • The Slides Pane (slide thumbnails)

The Slide Area

The notes pane.

  • The Status Bar (including the View Buttons)

Each one of these areas has options for viewing certain parts of the PowerPoint environment and formatting your presentation.

Below are the important things to know about certain elements of the PowerPoint interface.

The PowerPoint Ribbon

The PowerPoint Ribbon in the Microsoft Office Suite

The Ribbon is contextual. That means that it will adapt to what you’re doing in the program.

For example, the Font, Paragraph and Drawing options are greyed out until you select something that has text in it, as in the example below (A).

Example of the Shape Format tab in PowerPoint and all of the subsequent commands assoicated with that tab

Furthermore, if you start manipulating certain objects, the Ribbon will display additional tabs, as seen above (B), with more commands and features to help you work with those objects. The following objects have their own additional tabs in the Ribbon which are hidden until you select them:

  • Online Pictures
  • Screenshots
  • Screen Recording

The Slides Pane

The slides pane in PowerPoint is on the left side of your workspace

This is where you can preview and rearrange all the slides in your presentation.

Right-clicking on a slide  in the pane gives you additional options on the slide level that you won’t find on the Ribbon, such as  Duplicate Slide ,  Delete Slide , and  Hide Slide .

Right clicking a PowerPoint slide in the thumbnail view gives you a variety of options like adding new slides, adding sections, changing the layout, etc.

In addition, you can add sections to your presentation by  right-clicking anywhere in this Pane  and selecting  Add Section . Sections are extremely helpful in large presentations, as they allow you to organize your slides into chunks that you can then rearrange, print or display differently from other slides.

Content added to your PowerPoint slides will only display if it's on the slide area, marked here by the letter A

The Slide Area (A) is where you will build out your slides. Anything within the bounds of this area will be visible when you present or print your presentation.

Anything outside of this area (B) will be hidden from view. This means that you can place things here, such as instructions for each slide, without worrying about them being shown to your audience.

The notes pane in PowerPoint is located at the bottom of your screen and is where you can type your speaker notes

The  Notes Pane  is the space beneath the Slide Area where you can type in the speaker notes for each slide. It’s designed as a fast way to add and edit your slides’ talking points.

To expand your knowledge and learn more about adding, printing, and exporting your PowerPoint speaker notes, read our guide here .

Your speaker notes are visible when you print your slides using the Notes Pages option and when you use the Presenter View . To expand your knowledge and learn the ins and outs of using the Presenter View , read our guide here .

You can click and drag to resize the notes pane at the bottom of your PowerPoint screen

You can resize the  Notes Pane  by clicking on its edge and dragging it up or down (A). You can also minimize or reopen it by clicking on the Notes button in the Status Bar (B).

Note:  Not all text formatting displays in the Notes Pane, even though it will show up when printing your speaker notes. To learn more about printing PowerPoint with notes, read our guide here .

Now that you have a basic grasp of the PowerPoint interface at your disposal, it’s time to make your presentation.

Adding Content to Your PowerPoint Presentation

Notice that in the Slide Area , there are two rectangles with dotted outlines. These are called  Placeholders  and they’re set on the template in the Slide Master View .

To expand your knowledge and learn how to create a PowerPoint template of your own (which is no small task), read our guide here .

Click into your content placeholders and start typing text, just as the prompt suggests

As the prompt text suggests, you can click into each placeholder and start typing text. These types of placeholder prompts are customizable too. That means that if you are using a company template, it might say something different, but the functionality is the same.

Example of typing text into a content placeholder in PowerPoint

Note:  For the purposes of this example, I will create a presentation based on the content in the Starbucks 2018 Global Social Impact Report, which is available to the public on their website.

If you type in more text than there is room for, PowerPoint will automatically reduce its font size. You can stop this behavior by clicking on the  Autofit Options  icon to the left of the placeholder and selecting  Stop Fitting Text to this Placeholder .

Next, you can make formatting adjustments to your text by selecting the commands in the Font area and the  Paragraph area  of the  Home  tab of the Ribbon.

Use the formatting options on the Home tab to choose the formatting of your text

The Reset Command:  If you make any changes to your title and decide you want to go back to how it was originally, you can use the Reset button up in the Home tab .

Hitting the reset command on the home tab resets your slide formatting to match your template

Insert More Slides into Your Presentation

Now that you have your title slide filled in, it’s time to add more slides. To do that, simply go up to the  Home tab  and click on  New Slide . This inserts a new slide in your presentation right after the one you were on.

To insert a new slide in PowerPoint, on the home tab click the New Slide command

You can alternatively hit Ctrl+M on your keyboard to insert a new blank slide in PowerPoint. To learn more about this shortcut, see my guide on using Ctrl+M in PowerPoint .

Instead of clicking the New Slide command, you can also open the New Slide dropdown to see all the slide layouts in your PowerPoint template. Depending on who created your template, your layouts in this dropdown can be radically different.

Opening the new slide dropdown you can see all the slide layouts in your PowerPoint template

If you insert a layout and later want to change it to a different layout, you can use the Layout dropdown instead of the New Slide dropdown.

After inserting a few different slide layouts, your presentation might look like the following picture. Don’t worry that it looks blank, next we will start adding content to your presentation.

Example of a number of different blank slide layouts inserting in a PowerPoint presentation

If you want to follow along exactly with me, your five slides should be as follows:

  • Title Slide
  • Title and Content
  • Section Header
  • Two Content
  • Picture with Caption

Adding Content to Your Slides

Now let’s go into each slide and start adding our content. You’ll notice some new types of placeholders.

Use the icons within a content placeholder to insert things like tables, charts, SmartArt, Pictures, etc.

On slide 2 we have a  Content Placeholder , which allows you to add any kind of content. That includes:

  • A SmartArt graphic,
  • A 3D object,
  • A picture from the web,
  • Or an icon.

To insert text, simply type it in or hit  Ctrl+C to Copy  and Ctrl+V to Paste  from elsewhere. To insert any of the other objects, click on the appropriate icon and follow the steps to insert it.

For my example, I’ll simply type in some text as you can see in the picture below.

Example typing bulleted text in a content placeholder in PowerPoint

Slides 3 and 4 only have text placeholders, so I’ll go ahead and add in my text into each one.

Examples of text typed into a divider slide and a title and content slide in PowerPoint

On slide 5 we have a Picture Placeholder . That means that the only elements that can go into it are:

  • A picture from the web

A picture placeholder in PowerPoint can only take an image or an icon

To insert a picture into the picture placeholder, simply:

  • Click on the  Picture  icon
  • Find  a picture on your computer and select it
  • Click on  Insert

Alternatively, if you already have a picture open somewhere else, you can select the placeholder and paste in (shortcut: Ctrl+V ) the picture. You can also drag the picture in from a file explorer window.

To insert a picture into a picture placeholder, click the picture icon, find your picture on your computer and click insert

If you do not like the background of the picture you inserted onto your slide, you can remove the background here in PowerPoint. To see how to do this, read my guide here .

Placeholders aren’t the only way to add content to your slides. At any point, you can use the Insert tab to add elements to your slides.

You can use either the Title Only  or the  Blank  slide layout to create slides for content that’s different. For example, a three-layout content slide, or a single picture divider slide, as shown below.

Example slides using PowerPoint icons and background pictures

In the first example above, I’ve inserted 6 text boxes, 3 icons, and 3 circles to create this layout. In the second example, I’ve inserted a full-sized picture and then 2 shapes and 2 text boxes.

The Reset Command:  Because these slides are built with shapes and text boxes (and not placeholders), hitting the  Reset button up in the  Home tab  won’t do anything.

That is a good thing if you don’t want your layouts to adjust. However, it does mean that it falls on you to make sure everything is aligned and positioned correctly.

For more on how to add and manipulate the different objects in PowerPoint, check out our step-by-step articles here:

  • Using graphics in PowerPoint
  • Inserting icons onto slides
  • Adding pictures to your PowerPoint
  • How to embed a video in PowerPoint
  • How to add music to your presentation

Using Designer to generate more layouts ideas

If you have Office 365, your version of PowerPoint comes with a new feature called Designer (or Design Ideas). This is a feature that generates slide layout ideas for you. The coolest thing about this feature is that it uses the content you already have.

To use Designer , simply navigate to the  Design tab  in your Ribbon, and click on  Design Ideas .

To use Designer on your slides, click the

NOTE: If the PowerPoint Designer is not working for you (it is grey out), see my troubleshooting guide for Designer .

Change the Overall Design (optional)

When you make a PowerPoint presentation, you’ll want to think about the overall design. Now that you have some content in your presentation, you can use the Design tab to change the look and feel of your slides.

For additional help thinking through the design of your presentation,  read my guide here .

A. Picking your PowerPoint slide size

If you have PowerPoint 2013 or later, when you create a blank document in PowerPoint, you automatically start with a widescreen layout with a 16:9 ratio. These dimensions are suitable for most presentations as they match the screens of most computers and projectors.

However, you do have the option to change the dimensions.

For example, your presentation might not be presented, but instead converted into a PDF or printed and distributed. In that case, you can easily switch to the standard dimensions with a 4:3 ratio by selecting from the dropdown (A).

You can also choose a custom slide size or change the slide orientation from landscape to portrait in the Custom Slide Size dialog box (B).

To change your slide size, click the Design tab, open the slide size dropdown and choose a size or custom slide size

To learn all about the different PowerPoint slide sizes, and some of the issues you will face when changing the slide size of a non-blank presentation,  read my guide here .

 B. Selecting a PowerPoint theme

The next thing you can do is change the theme of your presentation to a pre-built one. For a detailed explanation of what a PowerPoint theme is, and how to best use it,  read my article here .

In the beginning of this tutorial, we started with a blank presentation, which uses the default Office theme as you can see in the picture below.

All PowerPoint presentations start with the default Microsoft Office theme

That gives you the most flexibility because it has a blank background and quite simple layouts that work for most presentations. However, it also means that it’s your responsibility to enhance the design.

If you’re comfortable with this, you can stay with the default theme or create your own custom theme ( read my guide here ). But if you would rather not have to think about design, then you can choose a pre-designed theme.

Microsoft provides 46 other pre-built themes, which include slide layouts, color variants and palettes, and fonts. Each one varies quite significantly, so make sure you look through them carefully.

To select a different theme, go to the  Design tab  in the Ribbon, and click on the  dropdown arrow  in the  Themes section .

On the Design tab you will find all of the default PowerPoint templates that come with the Microsoft Office Suite

For this tutorial, let’s select the  Frame  theme and then choose the third Variant in the theme. Doing so changes the layout, colors, and fonts of your presentation.

Example choosing the Frame PowerPoint theme and the third variant of this powerpoint presentation

Note: The theme dropdown area is also where you can import or save custom themes. To see my favorite places to find professional PowerPoint templates and themes (and recommendations for why I like them), read my guide here .

C. How to change a slide background in PowerPoint

The next thing to decide is how you want your background to look for the entire presentation. In the  Variants area, you can see four background options.

To change the background style of your presentation, on the Design tab, find the Background Styles options and choose a style

For this example, we want our presentation to have a dark background, so let’s select Style 3. When you do so, you’ll notice that:

  • The background color automatically changes across all slides
  • The color of the text on most of the slides automatically changes to white so that it’s visible on the dark background
  • The colors of the objects on slides #6 and #7 also adjust, in a way we may not want (we’ll likely have to make some manual adjustments to these slides)

What our PowerPoint presentation looks like now that we have selected a theme, a variant, and a background style

Note: If you want to change the slide background for just that one slide, don’t left-click the style. Instead, right-click it and select Apply to Selected Slides .

After you change the background for your entire presentation, you can easily adjust the background for an individual slide.

You can either right-click a PowerPoint slide and select format background or navigate to the design tab and click the format background command

Inside the Format Background pane, you can see you have the following options:

  • Gradient fill
  • Picture or texture fill
  • Pattern fill
  • Hide background

You can explore these options to find the PowerPoint background that best fits your presentation.

D. How to change your color palette in PowerPoint

Another thing you may want to adjust in your presentation, is the color scheme. In the picture below you can see the Theme Colors we are currently using for this presentation.

Example of the theme colors we are currently using with this presentation

Each PowerPoint theme comes with its own color palette. By default, the Office theme includes the Office color palette. This affects the colors you are presented with when you format any element within your presentation (text, shapes, SmartArt, etc.).

To change the theme color for your presentation, select the Design tab, open the Colors options and choose the colors you want to use

The good news is that the colors here are easy to change. To switch color palettes, simply:

  • Go to the  Design tab in the Ribbon
  • In the Variants area, click on the  dropdown arrow  and select  Colors
  • Select  the color palette (or theme colors) you want

You can choose among the pre-built color palettes from Office, or you can customize them to create your own.

As you build your presentation, make sure you use the colors from your theme to format objects. That way, changing the color palette adjusts all the colors in your presentation automatically.

E. How to change your fonts in PowerPoint

Just as we changed the color palette, you can do the same for the fonts.

Example of custom theme fonts that might come with a powerpoint template

Each PowerPoint theme comes with its own font combination. By default, the Office theme includes the Office font pairing. This affects the fonts that are automatically assigned to all text in your presentation.

To change the default fonts for your presentation, from the design tab, find the fonts dropdown and select the pair of fonts you want to use

The good news is that the font pairings are easy to change. To switch your Theme Fonts, simply:

  • Go to the  Design tab  in the Ribbon
  • Click on the  dropdown arrow  in the  Variants  area
  • Select  Fonts
  • Select  the font pairing you want

You can choose among the pre-built fonts from Office, or you can customize them to create your own.

If you are working with PowerPoint presentations on both Mac and PC computers, make sure you choose a safe PowerPoint font. To see a list of the safest PowerPoint fonts, read our guide here .

If you receive a PowerPoint presentation and the wrong fonts were used, you can use the Replace Fonts dialog box to change the fonts across your entire presentation. For details, read our guide here .

Adding Animations & Transitions (optional)

The final step to make a PowerPoint presentation compelling, is to consider using animations and transitions. These are by no means necessary to a good presentation, but they may be helpful in your situation.

A. Adding PowerPoint animations

PowerPoint has an incredibly robust animations engine designed to power your creativity. That being said, it’s also easy to get started with basic animations.

Animations are movements that you can apply to individual objects on your slide.

To add an animation to an object in PowerPoint, first select the object and then use the Animations tab to select an animation type

To add a PowerPoint animation to an element of your slide, simply:

  • Select the  element
  • Go to the  Animations tab in the Ribbon
  • Click on the  dropdown arrow  to view your options
  • Select the  animation  you want

You can add animations to multiple objects at one time by selecting them all first and then applying the animation.

B. How to preview a PowerPoint animation

There are three ways to preview a PowerPoint animation

There are three ways to preview a PowerPoint animation:

  • Click on the Preview button in the Animations tab
  • Click on the little star  next to the slide
  • Play the slide in Slide Show Mode

To learn other ways to run your slide show, see our guide on presenting a PowerPoint slide show with shortcuts .

To adjust the settings of your animations, explore the options in the  Effect Options ,  Advanced Animation  and the  Timing  areas of the  Animation tab .

The Animations tab allows you to adjust the effects and timings of your animations in PowerPoint

Note:  To see how to make objects appear and disappear in your slides by clicking a button,  read our guide here .

C. How to manage your animations in PowerPoint

You can see the animations applied to your objects by the little numbers in the upper right-hand corner of the objects

The best way to manage lots of animations on your slide is with the Animation Pane . To open it, simply:

  • Navigate to the  Animations tab
  • Select the  Animation Pane

Inside the Animation Pane, you’ll see all of the different animations that have been applied to objects on your slide, with their numbers marked as pictured above.

Note: To see examples of PowerPoint animations that can use in PowerPoint, see our list of PowerPoint animation tutorials here .

D. How to add transitions to your PowerPoint presentation

PowerPoint has an incredibly robust transition engine so that you can dictate how your slides change from one to the other. It is also extremely easy to add transitions to your slides.

In PowerPoint, transitions are the movements (or effects) you see as you move between two slides.

To add a transition to a slide, select the slide, navigate to the transitions tab in PowerPoint and select your transition

To add a transition to a PowerPoint slide, simply:

  • Select the  slide
  • Go to the  Transitions tab in the Ribbon
  • In the Transitions to This Slide area, click on the  dropdown arrow  to view your options
  • Select the  transition  you want

To adjust the settings of the transition, explore the options in the  Timing  area of the Transitions tab.

You can also add the same transition to multiple slides. To do that, select them in the  Slides Pane  and apply the transition.

E. How to preview a transition in PowerPoint

There are three ways to preview a transition in PowerPoint

There are three ways to preview your PowerPoint transitions (just like your animations):

  • Click on the Preview  button in the Transitions tab
  • Click on the little star  beneath the slide number in the thumbnail view

Note:  In 2016, PowerPoint added a cool new transition, called Morph. It operates a bit differently from other transitions. For a detailed tutorial on how to use the cool Morph transition,  see our step-by-step article here .

Save Your PowerPoint Presentation

After you’ve built your presentation and made all the adjustments to your slides, you’ll want to save your presentation. YOu can do this several different ways.

Click the file tab, select Save As, choose where you want to save your presentation and then click save

To save a PowerPoint presentation using your Ribbon, simply:

  • Navigate to the  File tab
  •  Select  Save As  on the left
  • Choose  where you want to save your presentation
  • Name  your presentation and/or adjust your file type settings
  • Click  Save

You can alternatively use the  Ctrl+S keyboard shortcut to save your presentation. I recommend using this shortcut frequently as you build your presentation to make sure you don’t lose any of your work.

The save shortcut is control plus s in PowerPoint

This is the standard way to save a presentation. However, there may be a situation where you want to save your presentation as a different file type.

To learn how to save your presentation as a PDF, see our guide on converting PowerPoint to a PDF .

How to save your PowerPoint presentation as a template

Once you’ve created a presentation that you like, you may want to turn it into a template. The easiest – but not technically correct – way, is to simply create a copy of your current presentation and then change the content.

But be careful! A PowerPoint template is a special type of document and it has its own parameters and behaviors.

If you’re interested in learning about how to create your own PowerPoint template from scratch, see our guide on how to create a PowerPoint template .

Printing Your PowerPoint Presentation

After finishing your PowerPoint presentation, you may want to print it out on paper. Printing your slides is relatively easy.

The print shortcut is control plus P in PowerPoint

To open the Print dialog box, you can either:

  • Hit Ctrl+P on your keyboard
  • Or go to the Ribbon and click on File and then Print

In the Print dialog box, make your selections for how you want to print your PowerPoint presentation, then click print

Inside the Print dialog box, you can choose from the various printing settings:

  • Printer: Select a printer to use (or print to PDF or OneNote)
  • Slides: Choose which slides you want to print
  • Layout: Determine how many slides you want per page (this is where you can print the notes, outline, and handouts)
  • Collated or uncollated (learn what collated printing means here )
  • Color: Choose to print in color, grayscale or black & white

There are many more options for printing your PowerPoint presentations. Here are links to more in-depth articles:

  • How to print multiple slides per page
  • How to print your speaker notes in PowerPoint
  • How to save PowerPoint as a picture presentation

So that’s how to create a PowerPoint presentation if you are brand new to it. We’ve also included a ton of links to helpful resources to boost your PowerPoint skills further.

When you are creating your presentation, it is critical to first focus on the content (what you are trying to say) before getting lost inserting and playing with elements. The clearer you are on what you want to present, the easier it will be to build it out in PowerPoint.

If you enjoyed this article, you can learn more about our PowerPoint training courses and other presentation resources by  visiting us here .

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  • v.17(12); 2021 Dec

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Ten simple rules for effective presentation slides

Kristen m. naegle.

Biomedical Engineering and the Center for Public Health Genomics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States of America

Introduction

The “presentation slide” is the building block of all academic presentations, whether they are journal clubs, thesis committee meetings, short conference talks, or hour-long seminars. A slide is a single page projected on a screen, usually built on the premise of a title, body, and figures or tables and includes both what is shown and what is spoken about that slide. Multiple slides are strung together to tell the larger story of the presentation. While there have been excellent 10 simple rules on giving entire presentations [ 1 , 2 ], there was an absence in the fine details of how to design a slide for optimal effect—such as the design elements that allow slides to convey meaningful information, to keep the audience engaged and informed, and to deliver the information intended and in the time frame allowed. As all research presentations seek to teach, effective slide design borrows from the same principles as effective teaching, including the consideration of cognitive processing your audience is relying on to organize, process, and retain information. This is written for anyone who needs to prepare slides from any length scale and for most purposes of conveying research to broad audiences. The rules are broken into 3 primary areas. Rules 1 to 5 are about optimizing the scope of each slide. Rules 6 to 8 are about principles around designing elements of the slide. Rules 9 to 10 are about preparing for your presentation, with the slides as the central focus of that preparation.

Rule 1: Include only one idea per slide

Each slide should have one central objective to deliver—the main idea or question [ 3 – 5 ]. Often, this means breaking complex ideas down into manageable pieces (see Fig 1 , where “background” information has been split into 2 key concepts). In another example, if you are presenting a complex computational approach in a large flow diagram, introduce it in smaller units, building it up until you finish with the entire diagram. The progressive buildup of complex information means that audiences are prepared to understand the whole picture, once you have dedicated time to each of the parts. You can accomplish the buildup of components in several ways—for example, using presentation software to cover/uncover information. Personally, I choose to create separate slides for each piece of information content I introduce—where the final slide has the entire diagram, and I use cropping or a cover on duplicated slides that come before to hide what I’m not yet ready to include. I use this method in order to ensure that each slide in my deck truly presents one specific idea (the new content) and the amount of the new information on that slide can be described in 1 minute (Rule 2), but it comes with the trade-off—a change to the format of one of the slides in the series often means changes to all slides.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is pcbi.1009554.g001.jpg

Top left: A background slide that describes the background material on a project from my lab. The slide was created using a PowerPoint Design Template, which had to be modified to increase default text sizes for this figure (i.e., the default text sizes are even worse than shown here). Bottom row: The 2 new slides that break up the content into 2 explicit ideas about the background, using a central graphic. In the first slide, the graphic is an explicit example of the SH2 domain of PI3-kinase interacting with a phosphorylation site (Y754) on the PDGFR to describe the important details of what an SH2 domain and phosphotyrosine ligand are and how they interact. I use that same graphic in the second slide to generalize all binding events and include redundant text to drive home the central message (a lot of possible interactions might occur in the human proteome, more than we can currently measure). Top right highlights which rules were used to move from the original slide to the new slide. Specific changes as highlighted by Rule 7 include increasing contrast by changing the background color, increasing font size, changing to sans serif fonts, and removing all capital text and underlining (using bold to draw attention). PDGFR, platelet-derived growth factor receptor.

Rule 2: Spend only 1 minute per slide

When you present your slide in the talk, it should take 1 minute or less to discuss. This rule is really helpful for planning purposes—a 20-minute presentation should have somewhere around 20 slides. Also, frequently giving your audience new information to feast on helps keep them engaged. During practice, if you find yourself spending more than a minute on a slide, there’s too much for that one slide—it’s time to break up the content into multiple slides or even remove information that is not wholly central to the story you are trying to tell. Reduce, reduce, reduce, until you get to a single message, clearly described, which takes less than 1 minute to present.

Rule 3: Make use of your heading

When each slide conveys only one message, use the heading of that slide to write exactly the message you are trying to deliver. Instead of titling the slide “Results,” try “CTNND1 is central to metastasis” or “False-positive rates are highly sample specific.” Use this landmark signpost to ensure that all the content on that slide is related exactly to the heading and only the heading. Think of the slide heading as the introductory or concluding sentence of a paragraph and the slide content the rest of the paragraph that supports the main point of the paragraph. An audience member should be able to follow along with you in the “paragraph” and come to the same conclusion sentence as your header at the end of the slide.

Rule 4: Include only essential points

While you are speaking, audience members’ eyes and minds will be wandering over your slide. If you have a comment, detail, or figure on a slide, have a plan to explicitly identify and talk about it. If you don’t think it’s important enough to spend time on, then don’t have it on your slide. This is especially important when faculty are present. I often tell students that thesis committee members are like cats: If you put a shiny bauble in front of them, they’ll go after it. Be sure to only put the shiny baubles on slides that you want them to focus on. Putting together a thesis meeting for only faculty is really an exercise in herding cats (if you have cats, you know this is no easy feat). Clear and concise slide design will go a long way in helping you corral those easily distracted faculty members.

Rule 5: Give credit, where credit is due

An exception to Rule 4 is to include proper citations or references to work on your slide. When adding citations, names of other researchers, or other types of credit, use a consistent style and method for adding this information to your slides. Your audience will then be able to easily partition this information from the other content. A common mistake people make is to think “I’ll add that reference later,” but I highly recommend you put the proper reference on the slide at the time you make it, before you forget where it came from. Finally, in certain kinds of presentations, credits can make it clear who did the work. For the faculty members heading labs, it is an effective way to connect your audience with the personnel in the lab who did the work, which is a great career booster for that person. For graduate students, it is an effective way to delineate your contribution to the work, especially in meetings where the goal is to establish your credentials for meeting the rigors of a PhD checkpoint.

Rule 6: Use graphics effectively

As a rule, you should almost never have slides that only contain text. Build your slides around good visualizations. It is a visual presentation after all, and as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. However, on the flip side, don’t muddy the point of the slide by putting too many complex graphics on a single slide. A multipanel figure that you might include in a manuscript should often be broken into 1 panel per slide (see Rule 1 ). One way to ensure that you use the graphics effectively is to make a point to introduce the figure and its elements to the audience verbally, especially for data figures. For example, you might say the following: “This graph here shows the measured false-positive rate for an experiment and each point is a replicate of the experiment, the graph demonstrates …” If you have put too much on one slide to present in 1 minute (see Rule 2 ), then the complexity or number of the visualizations is too much for just one slide.

Rule 7: Design to avoid cognitive overload

The type of slide elements, the number of them, and how you present them all impact the ability for the audience to intake, organize, and remember the content. For example, a frequent mistake in slide design is to include full sentences, but reading and verbal processing use the same cognitive channels—therefore, an audience member can either read the slide, listen to you, or do some part of both (each poorly), as a result of cognitive overload [ 4 ]. The visual channel is separate, allowing images/videos to be processed with auditory information without cognitive overload [ 6 ] (Rule 6). As presentations are an exercise in listening, and not reading, do what you can to optimize the ability of the audience to listen. Use words sparingly as “guide posts” to you and the audience about major points of the slide. In fact, you can add short text fragments, redundant with the verbal component of the presentation, which has been shown to improve retention [ 7 ] (see Fig 1 for an example of redundant text that avoids cognitive overload). Be careful in the selection of a slide template to minimize accidentally adding elements that the audience must process, but are unimportant. David JP Phillips argues (and effectively demonstrates in his TEDx talk [ 5 ]) that the human brain can easily interpret 6 elements and more than that requires a 500% increase in human cognition load—so keep the total number of elements on the slide to 6 or less. Finally, in addition to the use of short text, white space, and the effective use of graphics/images, you can improve ease of cognitive processing further by considering color choices and font type and size. Here are a few suggestions for improving the experience for your audience, highlighting the importance of these elements for some specific groups:

  • Use high contrast colors and simple backgrounds with low to no color—for persons with dyslexia or visual impairment.
  • Use sans serif fonts and large font sizes (including figure legends), avoid italics, underlining (use bold font instead for emphasis), and all capital letters—for persons with dyslexia or visual impairment [ 8 ].
  • Use color combinations and palettes that can be understood by those with different forms of color blindness [ 9 ]. There are excellent tools available to identify colors to use and ways to simulate your presentation or figures as they might be seen by a person with color blindness (easily found by a web search).
  • In this increasing world of virtual presentation tools, consider practicing your talk with a closed captioning system capture your words. Use this to identify how to improve your speaking pace, volume, and annunciation to improve understanding by all members of your audience, but especially those with a hearing impairment.

Rule 8: Design the slide so that a distracted person gets the main takeaway

It is very difficult to stay focused on a presentation, especially if it is long or if it is part of a longer series of talks at a conference. Audience members may get distracted by an important email, or they may start dreaming of lunch. So, it’s important to look at your slide and ask “If they heard nothing I said, will they understand the key concept of this slide?” The other rules are set up to help with this, including clarity of the single point of the slide (Rule 1), titling it with a major conclusion (Rule 3), and the use of figures (Rule 6) and short text redundant to your verbal description (Rule 7). However, with each slide, step back and ask whether its main conclusion is conveyed, even if someone didn’t hear your accompanying dialog. Importantly, ask if the information on the slide is at the right level of abstraction. For example, do you have too many details about the experiment, which hides the conclusion of the experiment (i.e., breaking Rule 1)? If you are worried about not having enough details, keep a slide at the end of your slide deck (after your conclusions and acknowledgments) with the more detailed information that you can refer to during a question and answer period.

Rule 9: Iteratively improve slide design through practice

Well-designed slides that follow the first 8 rules are intended to help you deliver the message you intend and in the amount of time you intend to deliver it in. The best way to ensure that you nailed slide design for your presentation is to practice, typically a lot. The most important aspects of practicing a new presentation, with an eye toward slide design, are the following 2 key points: (1) practice to ensure that you hit, each time through, the most important points (for example, the text guide posts you left yourself and the title of the slide); and (2) practice to ensure that as you conclude the end of one slide, it leads directly to the next slide. Slide transitions, what you say as you end one slide and begin the next, are important to keeping the flow of the “story.” Practice is when I discover that the order of my presentation is poor or that I left myself too few guideposts to remember what was coming next. Additionally, during practice, the most frequent things I have to improve relate to Rule 2 (the slide takes too long to present, usually because I broke Rule 1, and I’m delivering too much information for one slide), Rule 4 (I have a nonessential detail on the slide), and Rule 5 (I forgot to give a key reference). The very best type of practice is in front of an audience (for example, your lab or peers), where, with fresh perspectives, they can help you identify places for improving slide content, design, and connections across the entirety of your talk.

Rule 10: Design to mitigate the impact of technical disasters

The real presentation almost never goes as we planned in our heads or during our practice. Maybe the speaker before you went over time and now you need to adjust. Maybe the computer the organizer is having you use won’t show your video. Maybe your internet is poor on the day you are giving a virtual presentation at a conference. Technical problems are routinely part of the practice of sharing your work through presentations. Hence, you can design your slides to limit the impact certain kinds of technical disasters create and also prepare alternate approaches. Here are just a few examples of the preparation you can do that will take you a long way toward avoiding a complete fiasco:

  • Save your presentation as a PDF—if the version of Keynote or PowerPoint on a host computer cause issues, you still have a functional copy that has a higher guarantee of compatibility.
  • In using videos, create a backup slide with screen shots of key results. For example, if I have a video of cell migration, I’ll be sure to have a copy of the start and end of the video, in case the video doesn’t play. Even if the video worked, you can pause on this backup slide and take the time to highlight the key results in words if someone could not see or understand the video.
  • Avoid animations, such as figures or text that flash/fly-in/etc. Surveys suggest that no one likes movement in presentations [ 3 , 4 ]. There is likely a cognitive underpinning to the almost universal distaste of pointless animations that relates to the idea proposed by Kosslyn and colleagues that animations are salient perceptual units that captures direct attention [ 4 ]. Although perceptual salience can be used to draw attention to and improve retention of specific points, if you use this approach for unnecessary/unimportant things (like animation of your bullet point text, fly-ins of figures, etc.), then you will distract your audience from the important content. Finally, animations cause additional processing burdens for people with visual impairments [ 10 ] and create opportunities for technical disasters if the software on the host system is not compatible with your planned animation.

Conclusions

These rules are just a start in creating more engaging presentations that increase audience retention of your material. However, there are wonderful resources on continuing on the journey of becoming an amazing public speaker, which includes understanding the psychology and neuroscience behind human perception and learning. For example, as highlighted in Rule 7, David JP Phillips has a wonderful TEDx talk on the subject [ 5 ], and “PowerPoint presentation flaws and failures: A psychological analysis,” by Kosslyn and colleagues is deeply detailed about a number of aspects of human cognition and presentation style [ 4 ]. There are many books on the topic, including the popular “Presentation Zen” by Garr Reynolds [ 11 ]. Finally, although briefly touched on here, the visualization of data is an entire topic of its own that is worth perfecting for both written and oral presentations of work, with fantastic resources like Edward Tufte’s “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” [ 12 ] or the article “Visualization of Biomedical Data” by O’Donoghue and colleagues [ 13 ].

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank the countless presenters, colleagues, students, and mentors from which I have learned a great deal from on effective presentations. Also, a thank you to the wonderful resources published by organizations on how to increase inclusivity. A special thanks to Dr. Jason Papin and Dr. Michael Guertin on early feedback of this editorial.

Funding Statement

The author received no specific funding for this work.

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Designing an Effective PowerPoint Presentation: Quick Guide

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How To Make a Good Presentation [A Complete Guide]

By Krystle Wong , Jul 20, 2023

How to make a good presentation

A top-notch presentation possesses the power to drive action. From winning stakeholders over and conveying a powerful message to securing funding — your secret weapon lies within the realm of creating an effective presentation .  

Being an excellent presenter isn’t confined to the boardroom. Whether you’re delivering a presentation at work, pursuing an academic career, involved in a non-profit organization or even a student, nailing the presentation game is a game-changer.

In this article, I’ll cover the top qualities of compelling presentations and walk you through a step-by-step guide on how to give a good presentation. Here’s a little tip to kick things off: for a headstart, check out Venngage’s collection of free presentation templates . They are fully customizable, and the best part is you don’t need professional design skills to make them shine!

These valuable presentation tips cater to individuals from diverse professional backgrounds, encompassing business professionals, sales and marketing teams, educators, trainers, students, researchers, non-profit organizations, public speakers and presenters. 

No matter your field or role, these tips for presenting will equip you with the skills to deliver effective presentations that leave a lasting impression on any audience.

Click to jump ahead:

What are the 10 qualities of a good presentation?

Step-by-step guide on how to prepare an effective presentation, 9 effective techniques to deliver a memorable presentation, faqs on making a good presentation, how to create a presentation with venngage in 5 steps.

When it comes to giving an engaging presentation that leaves a lasting impression, it’s not just about the content — it’s also about how you deliver it. Wondering what makes a good presentation? Well, the best presentations I’ve seen consistently exhibit these 10 qualities:

1. Clear structure

No one likes to get lost in a maze of information. Organize your thoughts into a logical flow, complete with an introduction, main points and a solid conclusion. A structured presentation helps your audience follow along effortlessly, leaving them with a sense of satisfaction at the end.

Regardless of your presentation style , a quality presentation starts with a clear roadmap. Browse through Venngage’s template library and select a presentation template that aligns with your content and presentation goals. Here’s a good presentation example template with a logical layout that includes sections for the introduction, main points, supporting information and a conclusion: 

guidelines for making a powerpoint presentation

2. Engaging opening

Hook your audience right from the start with an attention-grabbing statement, a fascinating question or maybe even a captivating anecdote. Set the stage for a killer presentation!

The opening moments of your presentation hold immense power – check out these 15 ways to start a presentation to set the stage and captivate your audience.

3. Relevant content

Make sure your content aligns with their interests and needs. Your audience is there for a reason, and that’s to get valuable insights. Avoid fluff and get straight to the point, your audience will be genuinely excited.

4. Effective visual aids

Picture this: a slide with walls of text and tiny charts, yawn! Visual aids should be just that—aiding your presentation. Opt for clear and visually appealing slides, engaging images and informative charts that add value and help reinforce your message.

With Venngage, visualizing data takes no effort at all. You can import data from CSV or Google Sheets seamlessly and create stunning charts, graphs and icon stories effortlessly to showcase your data in a captivating and impactful way.

guidelines for making a powerpoint presentation

5. Clear and concise communication

Keep your language simple, and avoid jargon or complicated terms. Communicate your ideas clearly, so your audience can easily grasp and retain the information being conveyed. This can prevent confusion and enhance the overall effectiveness of the message. 

6. Engaging delivery

Spice up your presentation with a sprinkle of enthusiasm! Maintain eye contact, use expressive gestures and vary your tone of voice to keep your audience glued to the edge of their seats. A touch of charisma goes a long way!

7. Interaction and audience engagement

Turn your presentation into an interactive experience — encourage questions, foster discussions and maybe even throw in a fun activity. Engaged audiences are more likely to remember and embrace your message.

Transform your slides into an interactive presentation with Venngage’s dynamic features like pop-ups, clickable icons and animated elements. Engage your audience with interactive content that lets them explore and interact with your presentation for a truly immersive experience.

guidelines for making a powerpoint presentation

8. Effective storytelling

Who doesn’t love a good story? Weaving relevant anecdotes, case studies or even a personal story into your presentation can captivate your audience and create a lasting impact. Stories build connections and make your message memorable.

A great presentation background is also essential as it sets the tone, creates visual interest and reinforces your message. Enhance the overall aesthetics of your presentation with these 15 presentation background examples and captivate your audience’s attention.

9. Well-timed pacing

Pace your presentation thoughtfully with well-designed presentation slides, neither rushing through nor dragging it out. Respect your audience’s time and ensure you cover all the essential points without losing their interest.

10. Strong conclusion

Last impressions linger! Summarize your main points and leave your audience with a clear takeaway. End your presentation with a bang , a call to action or an inspiring thought that resonates long after the conclusion.

In-person presentations aside, acing a virtual presentation is of paramount importance in today’s digital world. Check out this guide to learn how you can adapt your in-person presentations into virtual presentations . 

Peloton Pitch Deck - Conclusion

Preparing an effective presentation starts with laying a strong foundation that goes beyond just creating slides and notes. One of the quickest and best ways to make a presentation would be with the help of a good presentation software . 

Otherwise, let me walk you to how to prepare for a presentation step by step and unlock the secrets of crafting a professional presentation that sets you apart.

1. Understand the audience and their needs

Before you dive into preparing your masterpiece, take a moment to get to know your target audience. Tailor your presentation to meet their needs and expectations , and you’ll have them hooked from the start!

2. Conduct thorough research on the topic

Time to hit the books (or the internet)! Don’t skimp on the research with your presentation materials — dive deep into the subject matter and gather valuable insights . The more you know, the more confident you’ll feel in delivering your presentation.

3. Organize the content with a clear structure

No one wants to stumble through a chaotic mess of information. Outline your presentation with a clear and logical flow. Start with a captivating introduction, follow up with main points that build on each other and wrap it up with a powerful conclusion that leaves a lasting impression.

Delivering an effective business presentation hinges on captivating your audience, and Venngage’s professionally designed business presentation templates are tailor-made for this purpose. With thoughtfully structured layouts, these templates enhance your message’s clarity and coherence, ensuring a memorable and engaging experience for your audience members.

Don’t want to build your presentation layout from scratch? pick from these 5 foolproof presentation layout ideas that won’t go wrong. 

guidelines for making a powerpoint presentation

4. Develop visually appealing and supportive visual aids

Spice up your presentation with eye-catching visuals! Create slides that complement your message, not overshadow it. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words, but that doesn’t mean you need to overload your slides with text.

Well-chosen designs create a cohesive and professional look, capturing your audience’s attention and enhancing the overall effectiveness of your message. Here’s a list of carefully curated PowerPoint presentation templates and great background graphics that will significantly influence the visual appeal and engagement of your presentation.

5. Practice, practice and practice

Practice makes perfect — rehearse your presentation and arrive early to your presentation to help overcome stage fright. Familiarity with your material will boost your presentation skills and help you handle curveballs with ease.

6. Seek feedback and make necessary adjustments

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and seek feedback from friends and colleagues. Constructive criticism can help you identify blind spots and fine-tune your presentation to perfection.

With Venngage’s real-time collaboration feature , receiving feedback and editing your presentation is a seamless process. Group members can access and work on the presentation simultaneously and edit content side by side in real-time. Changes will be reflected immediately to the entire team, promoting seamless teamwork.

Venngage Real Time Collaboration

7. Prepare for potential technical or logistical issues

Prepare for the unexpected by checking your equipment, internet connection and any other potential hiccups. If you’re worried that you’ll miss out on any important points, you could always have note cards prepared. Remember to remain focused and rehearse potential answers to anticipated questions.

8. Fine-tune and polish your presentation

As the big day approaches, give your presentation one last shine. Review your talking points, practice how to present a presentation and make any final tweaks. Deep breaths — you’re on the brink of delivering a successful presentation!

In competitive environments, persuasive presentations set individuals and organizations apart. To brush up on your presentation skills, read these guides on how to make a persuasive presentation and tips to presenting effectively . 

guidelines for making a powerpoint presentation

Whether you’re an experienced presenter or a novice, the right techniques will let your presentation skills soar to new heights!

From public speaking hacks to interactive elements and storytelling prowess, these 9 effective presentation techniques will empower you to leave a lasting impression on your audience and make your presentations unforgettable.

1. Confidence and positive body language

Positive body language instantly captivates your audience, making them believe in your message as much as you do. Strengthen your stage presence and own that stage like it’s your second home! Stand tall, shoulders back and exude confidence. 

2. Eye contact with the audience

Break down that invisible barrier and connect with your audience through their eyes. Maintaining eye contact when giving a presentation builds trust and shows that you’re present and engaged with them.

3. Effective use of hand gestures and movement

A little movement goes a long way! Emphasize key points with purposeful gestures and don’t be afraid to walk around the stage. Your energy will be contagious!

4. Utilize storytelling techniques

Weave the magic of storytelling into your presentation. Share relatable anecdotes, inspiring success stories or even personal experiences that tug at the heartstrings of your audience. Adjust your pitch, pace and volume to match the emotions and intensity of the story. Varying your speaking voice adds depth and enhances your stage presence.

guidelines for making a powerpoint presentation

5. Incorporate multimedia elements

Spice up your presentation with a dash of visual pizzazz! Use slides, images and video clips to add depth and clarity to your message. Just remember, less is more—don’t overwhelm them with information overload. 

Turn your presentations into an interactive party! Involve your audience with questions, polls or group activities. When they actively participate, they become invested in your presentation’s success. Bring your design to life with animated elements. Venngage allows you to apply animations to icons, images and text to create dynamic and engaging visual content.

6. Utilize humor strategically

Laughter is the best medicine—and a fantastic presentation enhancer! A well-placed joke or lighthearted moment can break the ice and create a warm atmosphere , making your audience more receptive to your message.

7. Practice active listening and respond to feedback

Be attentive to your audience’s reactions and feedback. If they have questions or concerns, address them with genuine interest and respect. Your responsiveness builds rapport and shows that you genuinely care about their experience.

guidelines for making a powerpoint presentation

8. Apply the 10-20-30 rule

Apply the 10-20-30 presentation rule and keep it short, sweet and impactful! Stick to ten slides, deliver your presentation within 20 minutes and use a 30-point font to ensure clarity and focus. Less is more, and your audience will thank you for it!

9. Implement the 5-5-5 rule

Simplicity is key. Limit each slide to five bullet points, with only five words per bullet point and allow each slide to remain visible for about five seconds. This rule keeps your presentation concise and prevents information overload.

Simple presentations are more engaging because they are easier to follow. Summarize your presentations and keep them simple with Venngage’s gallery of simple presentation templates and ensure that your message is delivered effectively across your audience.

guidelines for making a powerpoint presentation

1. How to start a presentation?

To kick off your presentation effectively, begin with an attention-grabbing statement or a powerful quote. Introduce yourself, establish credibility and clearly state the purpose and relevance of your presentation.

2. How to end a presentation?

For a strong conclusion, summarize your talking points and key takeaways. End with a compelling call to action or a thought-provoking question and remember to thank your audience and invite any final questions or interactions.

3. How to make a presentation interactive?

To make your presentation interactive, encourage questions and discussion throughout your talk. Utilize multimedia elements like videos or images and consider including polls, quizzes or group activities to actively involve your audience.

In need of inspiration for your next presentation? I’ve got your back! Pick from these 120+ presentation ideas, topics and examples to get started. 

Creating a stunning presentation with Venngage is a breeze with our user-friendly drag-and-drop editor and professionally designed templates for all your communication needs. 

Here’s how to make a presentation in just 5 simple steps with the help of Venngage:

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What It Takes to Give a Great Presentation

  • Carmine Gallo

guidelines for making a powerpoint presentation

Five tips to set yourself apart.

Never underestimate the power of great communication. It can help you land the job of your dreams, attract investors to back your idea, or elevate your stature within your organization. But while there are plenty of good speakers in the world, you can set yourself apart out by being the person who can deliver something great over and over. Here are a few tips for business professionals who want to move from being good speakers to great ones: be concise (the fewer words, the better); never use bullet points (photos and images paired together are more memorable); don’t underestimate the power of your voice (raise and lower it for emphasis); give your audience something extra (unexpected moments will grab their attention); rehearse (the best speakers are the best because they practice — a lot).

I was sitting across the table from a Silicon Valley CEO who had pioneered a technology that touches many of our lives — the flash memory that stores data on smartphones, digital cameras, and computers. He was a frequent guest on CNBC and had been delivering business presentations for at least 20 years before we met. And yet, the CEO wanted to sharpen his public speaking skills.

guidelines for making a powerpoint presentation

  • Carmine Gallo is a Harvard University instructor, keynote speaker, and author of 10 books translated into 40 languages. Gallo is the author of The Bezos Blueprint: Communication Secrets of the World’s Greatest Salesman  (St. Martin’s Press).

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  • 7 steps to building a compelling PowerPoint presentation
  • Content hub

.

7 min read — by Amos Wong

How many times have you sat through a PowerPoint presentation that raised more questions than it answered? For instance, just look at the image shown above. Or how often have you seen slides so packed with information that you can’t even read them before the presenter has moved onto the next slide? If you have been in such situations, this blog is for you.

Avoiding these problems isn’t as simple as it seems when you’re creating a presentation from scratch and have a lot of information to present. The trick is to break it down into manageable pieces, starting with the broad overview and then circling in on the details. To help you do it, this article examines a 7-step process for building a compelling PowerPoint presentation, including how to structure it, lay out slides and create charts that support your message.

Learn more about how to build a better slide deck with our free eBook on PowerPoint best practices

1. Determine your presentation type

The first step in building your PowerPoint presentation is determining which type of presentation you’re giving. This helps clarify your overarching goal, while also influencing how you structure your slides.

Presentations typically fall under one or more of the following categories representing a continuum from light to heavy content:

  • Key message presentations: This type of presentation is usually lighter in content and tells a persuasive story, such as a TED talk or pitch deck.
  • Recurring reports: Recurring reports include more repetitive presentations like monthly reports or slide decks for team meetings. They often include more detail to document results, trends or activities.
  • Insights and research outcomes: Presentations such as survey data or market trend reports distill information from large datasets into high-level conclusions.
  • Documentation: This type of presentation provides detailed summaries of findings, typically with many charts and limited commentary depending on the audience.

2. Build your story

Your next step is to ask what message or story you want the audience to walk away with. With your top-level message in hand, you can then begin to structure your slide deck around it.

This is the essence of the Pyramid Principle , a strategy for creating effective business communications ubiquitous in the consulting world. With the Pyramid Principle, you lead with your most important idea, followed by supporting ideas and facts. If your conclusion is that Acme Company should enter a new market, say it up front. Then go through each supporting argument in order of relative strength.

An important corollary to the above is the MECE Principle , which stands for mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive.

MECE principle: Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive.

Compared with presenting a laundry list of ideas, MECE is a way to group them in a way that covers all relevant points without overlap. Using MECE to organize and group your ideas ensures a logically sound argument, while making the information easier for your audience to absorb.

3. Write your action titles

Once you have a defined structure for your PowerPoint presentation, you can get down to creating your slides. One of the most important things to remember as you do this is that each slide should present exactly one idea summarized in a single action title. All information presented on the slide must support the action title, including any charts. It is also important to avoid including any visual or textual elements that may convey or imply a different or conflicting message apart from the one in the action title.

One common strategy is to first write action titles for each slide to ensure they tell a complete story on their own. From there, you can go back to each slide and add details such as bullet points and charts.

4. Use a clean layout and formatting

When creating slides, it is crucial to avoid overcrowding them with excessive information or elements that can create visual confusion. One way to approach this is to visualize your slide as a table, laying out elements in columns and rows. Commonly used slide layouts consist of either two to three or four quadrants, depending on the nature of the content and the desired visual representation. You’ll also want to consider:

  • The rule of thirds: Placing elements at one-third or two-thirds from the edge of the slide, and particularly where these gridlines intersect, is a universal rule for building a visually appealing slide.
  • White space: Resist the temptation to pack too much into your slides. Leaving sufficient white space is essential for readability and helping the audience take in each slide’s main point.
  • Presentation type: Key message presentations will have less content on each slide, compared with documentation presentations that include more detail.
  • Fonts: Use the same font color and size for titles and body text throughout your slide deck, ideally in a sans serif font like Arial. Titles should be 20 to 24 point size, with body text 12 to 18 point based on the amount of content on the slides.

5. Organize your bullet points

A long list of bullet points is confusing and hard for audiences to digest. Instead, stick to three or five bullets, with a maximum of seven. Again, avoid packing in too much information, and all text should support the action title.

To improve clarity, write bullet points using parallel structure. In other words, if one bullet is a sentence, all of them should be in sentence form. The same goes for using sentence fragments or individual words. Each bullet should start with the same part of speech (e.g., noun, verb, adjective).

6. Choose the right chart

All chart data should be relevant to the slide’s action title. Say It with charts by Gene Zelazny offers a useful approach to choosing your chart in three steps:

  • Identify which aspect of the data your chart will highlight
  • Determine what you’re comparing, whether it’s components, change over time or correlation
  • Select your chart according to the comparison you’re trying to make

Chart type vs data comparison cheat sheet.

7. Format your chart

Once you create a basic chart, you’ll want to format and annotate it in a way that conveys your message without confusion. This means:

  • Including a chart title that summarizes the data and aligns with the slide’s action title
  • Labeling both the x-axis and the y-axis with measurement units
  • Using color sparingly to highlight the chart’s conclusion, for example using muted tones with one key vertical bar highlighted in a bolder color
  • Adding trendlines to charts that can visually indicate patterns or trends in the data, for example, CAGRs
  • Displaying legends to help viewers understand the meaning of different colors, symbols, or patterns used in the chart

A PowerPoint add-in like think-cell can help you create better slide decks and charts faster. Dynamic charts, process flows, annotations and text boxes all help organize complex information into visually sophisticated presentations, so you can spend less time struggling with formatting and more time on building a compelling story.

Building a PowerPoint presentation from scratch can seem like a tall order. By breaking it down into manageable steps, however, you can streamline the process while ensuring your audience leaves with a clear understanding of your message.

.

How to apply the MECE principle to PowerPoint presentations

Learn about the MECE principle and examples of how to apply it, plus how to use it to create stronger PowerPoint presentations faster.

May 17, 2023 | 11 min read

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Using the Pyramid Principle to build better PowerPoint presentations

Learn how to use the Pyramid Principle to create more effective PowerPoint presentations, including how to organize ideas, present data and clarify your message.

February 07, 2023 | 6 min read

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Why you should change the way you think about PowerPoint

Presentations shape the conversations and decisions that move business forward. And by approaching them this way, you can accelerate your growth.

February 07, 2023 | 3 min read

Role of data visualization plays in business decision-making.

Role of data visualization in business decision-making

Understanding the rapid processing of visual information by the brain has significant implications in the business world, particularly for decision makers. In this blog, we will delve into the pivotal role data visualization plays in business decision-making.

July 25, 2023 | 8 min read

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guidelines for making a powerpoint presentation

How-To Geek

6 ways to create more interactive powerpoint presentations.

Engage your audience with cool, actionable features.

Quick Links

  • Add a QR code
  • Embed Microsoft Forms (Education or Business Only)
  • Embed a Live Web Page
  • Add Links and Menus
  • Add Clickable Images to Give More Info
  • Add a Countdown Timer

We've all been to a presentation where the speaker bores you to death with a mundane PowerPoint presentation. Actually, the speaker could have kept you much more engaged by adding some interactive features to their slideshow. Let's look into some of these options.

1. Add a QR code

Adding a QR code can be particularly useful if you want to direct your audience to an online form, website, or video.

Some websites have in-built ways to create a QR code. For example, on Microsoft Forms , when you click "Collect Responses," you'll see the QR code option via the icon highlighted in the screenshot below. You can either right-click the QR code to copy and paste it into your presentation, or click "Download" to add it to your device gallery to insert the QR code as a picture.

In fact, you can easily add a QR code to take your viewer to any website. On Microsoft Edge, right-click anywhere on a web page where there isn't already a link, and left-click "Create QR Code For This Page."

You can also create QR codes in other browsers, such as Chrome.

You can then copy or download the QR code to use wherever you like in your presentation.

2. Embed Microsoft Forms (Education or Business Only)

If you plan to send your PPT presentation to others—for example, if you're a trainer sending step-by-step instruction presentation, a teacher sending an independent learning task to your students, or a campaigner for your local councilor sending a persuasive PPT to constituents—you might want to embed a quiz, questionnaire, pole, or feedback survey in your presentation.

In PowerPoint, open the "Insert" tab on the ribbon, and in the Forms group, click "Forms". If you cannot see this option, you can add new buttons to the ribbon .

As at April 2024, this feature is only available for those using their work or school account. We're using a Microsoft 365 Personal account in the screenshot below, which is why the Forms icon is grayed out.

Then, a sidebar will appear on the right-hand side of your screen, where you can either choose a form you have already created or opt to craft a new form.

Now, you can share your PPT presentation with others , who can click the fields and submit their responses when they view the presentation.

3. Embed a Live Web Page

You could always screenshot a web page and paste that into your PPT, but that's not a very interactive addition to your presentation. Instead, you can embed a live web page into your PPT so that people with access to your presentation can interact actively with its contents.

To do this, we will need to add an add-in to our PPT account .

Add-ins are not always reliable or secure. Before installing an add-in to your Microsoft account, check that the author is a reputable company, and type the add-in's name into a search engine to read reviews and other users' experiences.

To embed a web page, add the Web Viewer add-in ( this is an add-in created by Microsoft ).

Go to the relevant slide and open the Web Viewer add-in. Then, copy and paste the secure URL into the field box, and remove https:// from the start of the address. In our example, we will add a selector wheel to our slide. Click "Preview" to see a sample of the web page's appearance in your presentation.

This is how ours will look.

When you or someone with access to your presentation views the slideshow, this web page will be live and interactive.

4. Add Links and Menus

As well as moving from one slide to the next through a keyboard action or mouse click, you can create links within your presentation to direct the audience to specific locations.

To create a link, right-click the outline of the clickable object, and click "Link."

In the Insert Hyperlink dialog box, click "Place In This Document," choose the landing destination, and click "OK."

What's more, to make it clear that an object is clickable, you can use action buttons. Open the "Insert" tab on the ribbon, click "Shape," and then choose an appropriate action button. Usefully, PPT will automatically prompt you to add a link to these shapes.

You might also want a menu that displays on every slide. Once you have created the menu, add the links using the method outlined above. Then, select all the items, press Ctrl+C (copy), and then use Ctrl+V to paste them in your other slides.

5. Add Clickable Images to Give More Info

Through PowerPoint's animations, you can give your viewer the power to choose what they see and when they see it. This works nicely whether you're planning to send your presentation to others to run through independently or whether you're presenting in front of a group and want your audience to decide which action they want to take.

Start by creating the objects that will be clickable (trigger) and the items that will appear (pop-up).

Then, select all the pop-ups together. When you click "Animations" on the ribbon and choose an appropriate animation for the effect you want to achieve, this will be applied to all objects you have selected.

The next step is to rename the triggers in your presentation. To do this, open the "Home" tab, and in the Editing group, click "Select", and then "Selection Pane."

With the Selection Pane open, select each trigger on your slide individually, and rename them in the Selection Pane, so that they can be easily linked to in the next step.

Finally, go back to the first pop-up. Open the "Animations" tab, and in the Advanced Animation group, click the "Trigger" drop-down arrow. Then, you can set the item to appear when a trigger is clicked in your presentation.

If you want your item to disappear when the trigger is clicked again, select the pop-up, click "Add Animation" in the Advanced Animation group, choose an Exit animation, and follow the same step to link that animation to the trigger button.

6. Add a Countdown Timer

A great way to get your audience to engage with your PPT presentation is to keep them on edge by adding a countdown timer. Whether you're leading a presentation and want to let your audience stop to discuss a topic, or running an online quiz with time-limit questions, having a countdown timer means your audience will keep their eye on your slide throughout.

To do this, you need to animate text boxes or shapes containing your countdown numbers. Choose and format a shape and type the highest number that your countdown clock will need. In our case, we're creating a 10-second timer.

Now, with your shape selected, open the "Animations" tab on the ribbon and click the animation drop-down arrow. Then, in the Exit menu, click "Disappear."

Open the Animation Pane, and click the drop-down arrow next to the animation you've just added. From there, choose "Timing."

Make sure "On Click" is selected in the Start menu, and change the Delay option to "1 second," before clicking "OK."

Then, with this shape still selected, press Ctrl+C (copy), and then Ctrl+V (paste). In the second box, type 9 . With the Animation Pane still open and this second shape selected, click the drop-down arrow and choose "Timing" again. Change the Start option to "After Previous," and make sure the Delay option is 1 second. Then, click "OK."

We can now use this second shape as our template, as when we copy and paste it again, the animations will also duplicate. With this second shape selected, press Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V, type 8 into the box, and continue to do the same until you get to 0 .

Next, remove the animations from the "0" box, as you don't want this to disappear. To do this, click the shape, and in the Animation Pane drop-down, click "Remove."

You now need to layer them in order. Right-click the box containing number 1, and click "Bring To Front." You will now see that box on the top. Do the same with the other numbers in ascending order.

Finally, you need to align the objects together. Click anywhere on your slide and press Ctrl+A. Then, in the Home tab on the ribbon, click "Arrange." First click "Align Center," and then bring the menu up again, so that you can click "Align Middle."

Press Ctrl+A again to select your timer, and you can then move your timer or copy and paste it elsewhere.

Press F5 to see the presentation in action, and when you get to the slide containing the timer, click anywhere on the slide to see your countdown timer in action!

Now that your PPT presentation is more interactive, make sure you've avoided these eight common presentational mistakes before you present your slides.

IMAGES

  1. How to Make a PowerPoint Presentation?

    guidelines for making a powerpoint presentation

  2. 12 Excellent Content Writing Tips for Effective PowerPoint Presentations

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  3. Effective PowerPoint Template and Google Slides

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  4. 23 PowerPoint Presentation Tips for Creating Engaging and Interactive

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  5. How to make/create a PowerPoint presentation

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COMMENTS

  1. Tips for creating and delivering an effective presentation

    Tips for creating an effective presentation. Tip. Details. Choose a font style that your audience can read from a distance. Choosing a simple font style, such as Arial or Calibri, helps to get your message across. Avoid very thin or decorative fonts that might impair readability, especially at small sizes. Choose a font size that your audience ...

  2. PowerPoint Guidelines to Design Effective Presentations + Video

    Once you've get your presentation planned out, it's time to tackle the design part of creating a presentation. When designing your presentation, keep the following guidelines in mind: 1. Keep the Text to a Minimum. When it comes to your presentation, PowerPoint should assist you in delivering the presentation.

  3. PowerPoint Tips: Simple Rules for Better PowerPoint Presentations

    Follow the 5/5/5 rule. To keep your audience from feeling overwhelmed, you should keep the text on each slide short and to the point. Some experts suggest using the 5/5/5 rule: no more than five words per line of text, five lines of text per slide, or five text-heavy slides in a row.

  4. PDF POWERPOINT BEST PRACTICES

    To keep your colors consistent and easy to access, save a color palette in PowerPoint. Click the Design tab and under Variants, click the down arrow (1). On the dropdown menu click Colors (2) and Customize Colors (3). In the Create New Theme colors dialogue click one of the color slots (4).

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    These Microsoft PowerPoint presentation tips and guidelines are organized into sections. So, cut straight to the advice you need and come back when you're ready for the next steps. You're about to see the best PowerPoint tips and tricks. The PowerPoint presentation tips we share below will help you make a good presentation.

  6. PowerPoint 101: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

    Microsoft PowerPoint is a presentation design software that is part of Microsoft 365. This software allows you to design presentations by combining text, images, graphics, video, and animation on slides in a simple and intuitive way. Over time, PowerPoint has evolved and improved its accessibility to users.

  7. 8 Tips to Make the Best PowerPoint Presentations

    A good presentation needs two fonts: a serif and sans-serif. Use one for the headlines and one for body text, lists, and the like. Keep it simple. Veranda, Helvetica, Arial, and even Times New Roman are safe choices. Stick with the classics and it's hard to botch this one too badly.

  8. Making Better PowerPoint Presentations

    Making Better PowerPoint Presentations. Print Version. Baddeley and Hitch's model of working memory. ... By keeping in mind a few guidelines, your classroom presentations can stand above the crowd! "It is easy to dismiss design - to relegate it to mere ornament, the prettifying of places and objects to disguise their banality. ...

  9. How to Make a "Good" Presentation "Great"

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  10. 10 Tips to Make Your PowerPoint Presentation Effective

    7) Limit bullet points. Keep your bullet points to a maximum of 5-6 per slide. In addition, the words per bullet point should also be limited to 5-6 words. It's also wise to vary what you present in each slide, such as alternating between bullet points, graphics, and graph slides, in order to sustain the interest and focus of your audience.

  11. 25 PowerPoint Presentation Tips For Good PPT Slides in 2022

    Get your main point into the presentation as early as possible (this avoids any risk of audience fatigue or attention span waning), then substantiate your point with facts, figures etc and then reiterate your point at the end in a 'Summary'. 2. Practice Makes Perfect. Also, don't forget to practice your presentation.

  12. The Presenter's Guide to Nailing Your Next PowerPoint

    To select multiple slides, click a slide and then press and hold CTRL while you click the other slides. Next, click the "Themes" tab at the top of your screen. In the "Theme Options" group, click "Background," then "Format Background." In the window that appears, click "Fill," then "Picture or Texture."

  13. How to Make a PowerPoint Presentation (Step-by-Step)

    To do that, simply go up to the Home tab and click on New Slide. This inserts a new slide in your presentation right after the one you were on. You can alternatively hit Ctrl+M on your keyboard to insert a new blank slide in PowerPoint. To learn more about this shortcut, see my guide on using Ctrl+M in PowerPoint.

  14. PDF PowerPoint Presentation Guidelines

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  15. Ten simple rules for effective presentation slides

    Rule 2: Spend only 1 minute per slide. When you present your slide in the talk, it should take 1 minute or less to discuss. This rule is really helpful for planning purposes—a 20-minute presentation should have somewhere around 20 slides. Also, frequently giving your audience new information to feast on helps keep them engaged.

  16. PowerPoint Quick Start

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    The Assertion-Evidence Model of Slide Design. 1) Clearly assert the slide's main idea in a complete sentence. a. Appears at the top of the slide. b. Contains one distinct point. c. Flows logically from previous slide. 2) Reinforce the argument with visual evidence. a.

  18. How To Make a Good Presentation [A Complete Guide]

    Apply the 10-20-30 rule. Apply the 10-20-30 presentation rule and keep it short, sweet and impactful! Stick to ten slides, deliver your presentation within 20 minutes and use a 30-point font to ensure clarity and focus. Less is more, and your audience will thank you for it! 9. Implement the 5-5-5 rule. Simplicity is key.

  19. What It Takes to Give a Great Presentation

    Here are a few tips for business professionals who want to move from being good speakers to great ones: be concise (the fewer words, the better); never use bullet points (photos and images paired ...

  20. 7 steps to building a compelling PowerPoint presentation

    To help you do it, this article examines a 7-step process for building a compelling PowerPoint presentation, including how to structure it, lay out slides and create charts that support your message. Download your free PowerPoint best practices eBook. 1. Determine your presentation type. The first step in building your PowerPoint presentation ...

  21. 10 guidelines to make impactful PowerPoint presentations

    A good message does one of three things vis-à-vis the information on the slide. a. Provides a one-line summary (or synthesis) of the slide's contents. b. Prioritises one or two key findings ...

  22. 6 Ways to Create More Interactive PowerPoint Presentations

    Engage your audience with cool, actionable features. 2. Embed Microsoft Forms (Education or Business Only) If you plan to send your PPT presentation to others—for example, if you're a trainer sending step-by-step instruction presentation, a teacher sending an independent learning task to your students, or a campaigner for your local councilor sending a persuasive PPT to constituents—you ...