Avoiding Death by Powerpoint

WRITTEN February 17, 2017 Author: Rich Atkins

Stacking the Deck!

Many PowerPoint presentation slides used in executive presentations are just awful. Most people cannot read and listen at the same time.

Remember, your slides are supposed to augment your presentation, not BE the presentation.

Here are some tips from our public speaking and presentation skills course. Use these ideas to streamline your PowerPoint and improve your public speaking skills:


  • One IDEA per slide – use bullets for the parts of each idea.
  • Include only the key words or phrases. Have as few words as possible on the slide, you want people listening, not reading.
  • Highlight the key points so you can use them to reinforce your spoken word.


  • Keep to one line of text per bullet.
  • It is best to have only three to five bullets per slide.
  • Less is more – try to keep it to five words per line.

Animation? Don’t.

Consistency Is the Rule

  • Margins – Text should only appear in 95% of your slide area. There should always be margins around the border of the slide.
  • Layout – Use the same layout for each like-slide. Rely on your software’s Layout function to ensure continuity and uniformity. Whether using a pre-made template or creating your own design, be consistent. Check that headings, subheadings, logos, dates, etc. appear in the same place on all slides. Apply the same consistency to lines, boxes, borders, tables, etc.
  • Font – Choose your font by name, style (bold or italics), and size. Don’t use too many different fonts per page, try to stay in the same font family. Titles should be in 40+ point, bullets and content text should be 24-32 point.
  • Text Formatting – Avoid underlining, as that is reserved for hyperlinks, and may confuse readers. Search for, and remove all unnecessary characters.

Remember, Uniformity is best for your audience. Use a template to ensure a standard look.

  • Avoid ALL CAPS, except for acronyms.
  • Use italics for quotes, highlighting, and titles (books, magazines, longer works).
  • Use the same background for all your slides.
  • White text on a dark background is appropriate for a small meeting.
  • Light text on dark slides work the best in a large room.

Other helpful ways to organize and present visual information to your audience:

  • Columns
  • Tables
  • Diagrams
  • Bulleted or numbered lists
  • Images
  • Text boxes
  • Graphs

During an executive presentation, there is no doubt that using PowerPoint enhances your content. The key is using it purely as an enhancement of what you have to say, and not let it become a distraction. A poorly designed PowerPoint will both distract and detract from your overall message.

Use the tips above to streamline and add finesse to your PowerPoint slides and ultimately to your executive presentation skills.

Learn more about our Introductory and Advanced Public Speaking and Presentation Skills courses. If you are looking for ways to improve your communication skills, register for one of our Improving Communications public classes hosted in NYC.

Photo courtesy of Mike Murray on FLICKR.

Other references:

Underlining: Absolutely Not

PowerPoint Friend or Foe

10 Tips for More Effective PowerPoint Presentations by LifeHack

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