Creating an Effective PowerPoint Presentation

So, you been asked to put together a PowerPoint presentation. Does this generate an internal “oh no” or a “great” response? Well, here are a few pointers that will result in a good presentation.

By Rich Nichols

How much time does the presentation have for delivery? This is important because you should plan on a deliver time of three to five minutes per slide, not counting title page. So, an hour presentation should have no more than 20 slides of material, and you can easily do 12 slides. Don’t forget to allow time for questions at the end of or during the presentation.

Who is the presentation for? You probably know this, but it shapes the content and narrows your message(s). Engineers/scientists audience is completely different from a marketing or management audience. If you have a mixed audience, you can mix the message on each slide, but have a separate summary aimed at each segment of the audience.

What’s my message? THE most important content question and it’s got to be rock solid in your mind. There may be more than one message for sure. But be clear and concise in what are your messages. You can afford to have the audience figure out what your messages may be.

Overall approach is simple, but very important. As a presenter, you need to:

  • Tell them what you are going to tell them (Introduction slide that outlines the presentation topics).
  • Tell them—the meat of the material.
  • Tell them what you told them—summarize your key message points.

Create the material that tells YOUR messages. You can’t afford to have the audience leave without remembering YOUR message. Otherwise, the audience takeaways may be something else.

Presentation Structure: Title page, outline, material, summary

Slide Content:

  1. Create a Slide Master
    1. Everyone must be able to read the slide: how far away is the last row? Size fonts to be legible to that reader
    2. Company logo at the top (upper left common)
    3. Any proprietary logo center bottom (if the material is proprietary, put a full proprietary statement on the Title Page)
    4. Page number lower right
    5. Other info that needs to be on each slide. Maybe the presenter and contact information
  2. Slide material
    1. Most important to recognize that a typical audience can remember three to five things from a single slide
      1. The chart title is one thing
      2. Do you have a quantitative graph or chart? This will limit the number of bullets that you can use. For a quantitative chart/graph, the two axes are two things. So that means no more than two data elements will be remembered. More data may be forgotten, and it’s possibly confusing. So, trim the slide quantitative data content
    2. Tables are common, and one can be the whole slide. While numbers might be important, consider using qualitative descriptors such as “Better (than requirement),” “Meets (requirement),” “Marginal,” and “Fail,” or any other descriptor that’s appropriate. Then assign a color for each descriptor. Better = Dark Blue; Meets = Green; Marginal = Yellow; Fail: Red. Using the color code approach enables a large amount of qualitative data to be presented and readily understood. Shown is an example that says, for example, Program/effort needs attention in general; Requirement 1 is the easiest; and Elements 3, 4, and 7 (2 reds) are in trouble:
    3. White space is a good thing
    4. Bullets summarize what you want to say at that bullet: don’t plan on reading the bullet to the audience. The bullet is just a summary for you to talk to, not for the audience to read
    5. Images will draw attention from the audience. So ONLY use images that are relevant, and you will have to explain why the image is there, and what is the message of the image.
  3. Summary. This is where you repeat the messages that you meant to convey. Review the slides and make sure that each slide has the message that you want to give.

Making the Presentation. I’ve prepared and given literally hundreds of presentations and believe me when I say I didn’t know all of this when I first started. And one more thing, I was always nervous before the presentation started, but as soon as I started the nervousness went away.

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Published on May 1, 2020 by

Dick Eassom, CF APMP Fellow