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How to make a GREAT PowerPoint presentation

Sunder Ramachandran | May 29, 2006

Does the thought of making a PPT get your palms all sweaty?

Well, you can change that. Here, we tell you how to hone your presentation skills, so that you look forward to it instead of approach it with dread.

For those who are lost, PPT is an abbreviation for the PowerPoint Presentation. This is a high-powered software tool marketed by Microsoft. They claim 30 million presentations are made with PowerPoint every day.

Basically, it is a tool used to present information in a slide show format. You can use text, charts, graphs, photographs, sound effects and even video with a lot of ease to present (sometimes boring) ideas, facts, trends, whatever information you want to.

So, whether your audience is your boss, your colleagues, a client, or students, here's how to make a killer presentation.

When making the slides...

Shoot them with bullets 

"Less is more on a slide show. Too much information on a single slide becomes unreadable, especially when it is projected on a big screen for a large audience," says Delhi-based Ajay Jain, CEO, TCP Media.

1. Present your content in the form of four to five bulleted points per slide; anything more and you end up creating clutter. Using bullets not only makes your slide readable, it also adds to the overall impact of your presentation.

2. Let your bullets be visible. Try to use a font size of 18-24.

3. Don't let each bulleted point be too lengthy. Limit it to six words in one line -- use short sentences.

4. Try to restrict it to six lines in a slide.

5. Contrast the text with the background.

6. To highlight certain important information, present that text in a larger font size. 

Don't make it too animated

PowerPoint offers tremendous multimedia capabilities, but don't get carried away with flashy videos, music clips or graphics. Restrict it to certain slides, you don't have to employ it for each and every one.

"One of my students made a presentation on micro finance. It was a serious topic but every slide had background music and even the click of the mouse produced fancy sounds. This took away from the seriousness of the subject being discussed," says Madurai-based M Subramanian a senior faculty member with the R L Institute Of Management Studies.

Use the multimedia capabilities only for special emphasis or to demonstrate how something works. If you use animation excessively, your presentation could be labeled as 'school-boyish'.

Space it out evenly

Select the first of the three or more objects you want to space out, hold down the 'Shift' key and click the remaining objects you want evenly spaced out.

Go to the 'View' menu and select 'Toolbars', then select 'Drawing' to open the 'Drawing' toolbar. Once there, click 'Draw'.

A menu opens.

Click 'Align' or 'Distribute', then 'Distribute Horizontally' or 'Distribute Vertically' to align the objects you selected. Your slides will look balanced and dapper.

When presenting...

Your PPT is not a Teleprompter

Don't commit the cardinal sin of reading out your slides word for word. This is guaranteed to get your audience yawning and reaching for more coffee.

PPT slides are to be used as a visual communication aid and not as a teleprompter for the speaker. 

"If I want my audience to make notes of important points, I usually provide hand-outs or leaflets after the presentation. This ensures the audience is listening instead of taking notes," says Mumbai-based Prabh Sharan, training manager with Kingfisher Airlines.

Get out of the way

Make sure you are not blocking the audience's view. Use a laser beam to identify the points on the screen, never your arm. A flailing arm is a distraction.

"In one of the college presentations, a colleague kept prompting us to read the slides but would not move away. We ended up reading the slides from his face as he was standing right in front of the projector," says Madan Ramachandran, an MBA graduate from ICFAI business school, Hyderabad.

Go slow

"In one of our routine university meets, a fellow academician flipped through a 15-slide presentation in about five minutes," says Delhi based Shanthi Chander, senior administrative officer, Indira Gandhi University. "At the end of it," he concludes, "we all had the same question on our minds -- what exactly just hit us?"

Don't rush through your slide show. Give about 30 seconds to two minutes for the images on your slide show to make an impact. This will also give you time to answer questions and make your point.

Do dummy runs

Don't make the first presentation to your audience. You should do the entire presentation by yourself (in front of a mirror, if possible). See how it flows and how long it takes.

If you are uncertain, maybe you could run it past a colleague or a friend. Ask them for feedback. Go through other presentations. if you have them, and see how others have done it. Recollect all the presentations you attended -- what you like about them, what you disliked about them, etc. Now, implement what you have learnt from all of this in your slide show presentation.

It's not just technology

PowerPoint may be a great piece of technology, but your effectiveness as a public speaker will eventually dictate the impact.

Dress smartly. Entertain the audience with some amount of planned humour. Share anecdotes and stories.

Don't talk in a monotone. Pack in enthusiasm and energy into your voice.

And, if you do goof up, never apologise -- take a breath, smile and move on. You will be surprised to know how many in your audience may not have even noticed the mishap until you made it obvious.

Smart tips...

Go blank: If you want the audience to take their eyes off the slides, just put the presentation on slide show mode and press 'B' on your keyboard.

This will blank out the screen and you will have the audience's attention. Press 'B' again and you are back.

Add speaker notes: Worried about forgetting your script? Here's a smart solution.

Go to the slide for which you want to add notes. Go to the 'View' menu and select 'Notes'.

Click the text placeholder and begin typing your speaker notes. Only YOU can see these notes, so your audience will leave your presentation, impressed with your ability to say smart things at the right time. Try it out, it's really cool.

Navigate: If you have to navigate through slides, you can simply type in the slide number and press 'Enter'.

A powerful presentation is not a matter of chance. It takes a lot of preparation and practice, but the thundering applause from your audience will make it all worth it.

So bring out your shining new slide show and wow even the toughest audience.

Sunder works as a trainer with a leading BPO in Delhi. He can be reached at

Are you a pro at designing PowerPoint presentations? Share your tips with other Get Ahead readers.

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Number of User Comments: 25

Sub: PPT Presentations

PPT presentations is not a platform to show your creativity rather it is a platform to show the effort behind it.

Posted by Jude Michael

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Posted by mangesh

Sub: Know your audience

I would like to add a few more lines to the well written article. 1) Before preparing the PPT, think of the level of audience. ...

Posted by Anandateertha Katti

Sub: PPT Presentation

An Ideal Way to go thru the points to be kept in mind while making ppt presentations for new beginners.

Posted by chandra mohan singh

Sub: Wrong hyperlink.

Hi There is a wrong hyperlink given on the "3 golden principles of effetive communication".When clicking on this link "How to make a GREAT presentation" ...

Posted by Shekhar


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