The 10 Commandments of Power Point Presentations

Throughout my internet marketing career, I’ve presented 250+ times using PPT files, mostly in online webinars.

One thing I’ve often failed to do is get honest feedback from clients about what they liked, what they didn’t like, and how I could improve the presentation.

As I’ve been doing research on what makes the most effective power point presentations, I’ve realized that fortunately, I did SOME things right; unfortunately, I did MORE things wrong.

As you go through the following list of Do’s and Don’ts, think about a recent presentation you’ve given or one you’ve attended.

Did they follow these “10 Commandments of Power Point Presentations“?

5 Things TO DO In a Power Point Presentation

  1. THOU SHALT USE IMAGES, IMAGES, IMAGES: Drawings can really catch people’s attention. Charts and graphs seem to work better than tables. One of the best presentations I’ve been to was by Seth Godin where most of his slides were random pictures that helped tell a story. I don’t think I saw one single complete sentence on ANY of his slides.
  2. THOU SHALT EXPLAIN SLIDES: Well designed slides will captivate your audience but will require you to “fill in the blanks” with quality content. Help participants bridge the gap between what they see on the slide and what you intend to teach them.
  3. THOU SHALT USE SLOGANS, NOT PARAGRAPHS: I read one article that suggested slides have a maximum of 5 words. “Just Do It!”, “Be all you can be…”, slogans like these won’t require your audience to really read anything (and that’s the point). If you get a sense your audience is being forced to read your slides, eliminate words!
  4. THOU SHALT PROVIDE HARD-COPY HANDOUTS: If participants need information to take home, provide them with a print-out in hard copy afterwards instead of cluttering your slides with lots of detail. I strongly recommend the afterwards because if they have the entire presentation in front of them, you might as well just sit down and take turns reading out loud in a circle.
  5. THOU SHALT USE HAND-HELD NOTE CARDS: Unless you have practiced the presentation multiple times or have an amazing memory, hand-held note cards are a must. Not only are they small and non distracting, but they will help you avoid one of the “no-no’s” – reading your slides (aka turning your back to the audience to see where you’re at in the presentation).
  6. 5 Things NOT TO DO in a Power Point Presentation

  7. THOU SHALT NOT HAVE TOO MUCH INFO ON SLIDES: Don’t give away the farm! Keep your audience guessing, at least a little bit. They didn’t come to read your script on the big screen. If you need context, put it on your note cards and summarize down to 5 words or less on your slides.
  8. THOU SHALT AVOID AGENDA SLIDES: Agenda slides take away all the suspense. Your audience will pay a lot more attention if they can’t predict what you’ll say next. In addition, you’ll appear to be a lot more on top of your presentation and subject matter if you move through the content seamlessly.
  9. THOU SHALT NOT USE ANIMATED SOUNDS AND SLIDERS: Just the thought of some text flying in to the sound of a nuclear bomb reminds me of my 7th grade science teacher. He thought he was SO COOL, and we were all embarrassed for him, even as 12 year olds. Just think what your group of professionals will think if you follow the 7th grade teachers BAD EXAMPLE…
  10. THOU SHALT NOT READ SLIDES: Hopefully you’ve picked up on this point already (ie. note cards) but let me reiterate – reading your slides = ill-prepared. If you have to turn your back to the audience, look up, and verify you’re on the right section, you probably should have practiced a bit more before taking center stage. Referring back to Seth Godin’s presentation (which he’s probably given thousands of times): I don’t believe he ever really stopped to see what was on the big screen; the slides just seemed to flow as he was talking and most of them were images (funny, creative, informative) that tied right in with what he was sharing. His presentation kept me captivated but did not distract me from what he was really trying to say.
  11. THOU SHALT NOT SPEED: Slow Down! Pause between points that you want the people to think about. Force the audience to ask themselves questions. Force the audience to interact and give you answers to thought-provoking questions. Wait for answers before shouting them out yourself. BREATHE! Although you may feel you have so much to cover and so little time, you’ll need to slow down so your audience can actually comprehend what you’re trying to teach.

Now the question: How are you living up to the Power Point commandments?

9 thoughts on “The 10 Commandments of Power Point Presentations

  1. Scott Cowley says:

    Good thoughts, Nate. You’re never done learning how to present well. The same goes with writing. I do think that if you’re presenting in front of a live crowd, note cards are a big turnoff. That may just be my style speaking, but I would rather see someone wing it and be able to partially convince me of their preparation with confidence, then have someone be looking at note cards throughout a presentation. What do you think?

  2. Craig Langdon says:

    Totally agree with Scott.

    If you don’t know your presentation then get off the stage!! Best presentations are stories told from the heart, no notes. Your passion will convince your audience (potential customer) that you are the right person to be doing business with.

  3. Mark says:

    Presentation sometimes makes the difference between landing a client or going under. This is why I consider your article very useful

  4. Mia says:

    PPTs are a great tool to communicate which makes the communication process more efficiently. I agree that too much info can distract the listeners, and in this case less is more.

    Also, it’s important the colors you use to attract attention on a specific slide/info. Too many formatting styles can also be harmful, so go with red, or use bold.

  5. Leonardo Casci says:

    Well i have been since i used it on school, now that i’m joining college i expect to use it more often again like in old days, and i hope to have a fun time with it.. will try some new techniques with my new teachers to see how well it goes.

  6. Pingback: Slide Show: How to Make Your PPT Presentation Stand Out | Utah Online Marketing Consultant

  7. Nabil says:

    Great tips, DSM.

    I’m living up to the commandments pretty well if you ask me…

    …except for the last one. I tend to talk fast, and often. Gotta get better on that! 🙂

  8. Sharon Koenig says:

    Hey Nate, Thank you so much for this post, it is very timely for me as I have a presentation (my first ever) coming up in a month. I will print the post so I can live by the commandments and do my presentation right!

  9. Michael Jones says:

    I will definitely take note of these “10 commandments of presentation”. If these tips helped others, it will surely helped me too.