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Making Presentations that Impress
January 18, 2017

When it comes to delivering presentations to audiences of any size, speakers often turn to Microsoft PowerPoint as their primary tool for structuring and organizing their remarks. A PowerPoint deck—when prepared correctly—can help you recall talking points, illustrate key facts and ideas, and keep your audience engaged. Here (5 MB) you’ll find a PowerPoint deck that you can use as a template to get started.

At a minimum, a PowerPoint deck should have the following elements:

  • Title Slide: This presents the title of your presentation and your name, along with the date.
  • Agenda Slide: Use this slide as an outline to give your audience a preview of what you plan to cover during your presentation. Your slides should mimic the structure established in the Agenda.
  • Text and/or Image Slides: These slides are the main “body” of your deck, where you will lay out your content and any accompanying photos or graphics that illustrate your message.
  • Transition Slide: Use these slides to move from one topic to the next. These serve as a visual hint to your audience that you are moving to the next major section of your presentation.
  • Conclusion Slide: This is where you will summarize your primary arguments so that your audience will remember them.
  • Next Steps Slide: Use this slide to list out action items for yourself or the audience as appropriate. If nothing else, this serves as a reminder for you to inform your audiences of items that need follow-up.
  • Final Slide: This slide is a visual signal that the presentation is over. It might have no text, or simply say “Questions?” or “Thank you.” If applicable, include your contact information (e.g., your email address, phone number, etc.) on this slide so the audience has a way to get in touch with you after your presentation.

Use the tips below as a guide to help you prepare and deliver your next PowerPoint presentation:

Preparing your presentation:

  • Build a cohesive structure: Your presentation should have a clear beginning, middle, and end—and your PowerPoint deck should reflect that progression. Make sure your slides are helping to enhance and clarify your message, rather than detract from it.
  • Get to the point: Make sure you move quickly to the main point. Otherwise, you risk losing your audience’s attention during the buildup to your primary message.
  • Strive for brevity and clarity: A long-winded presentation with confusing vocabulary is likely to create an uninterested audience. Use plain, simple language and short, direct sentences that will be easy to understand (and easier for you to remember!).
  • Apply consistent formatting: One thing that’s sure to detract from an otherwise excellent presentation is a PowerPoint deck with little uniformity from slide to slide. Make sure that you use consistent fonts, font sizes, and formatting structures (e.g., bullets, headings, subheadings) throughout the deck.
  • Practice your delivery: Practice makes perfect! While you do not need to memorize your remarks, it’s important to be familiar enough with them that you can deliver your presentation without notes. Use your PowerPoint deck to remind yourself of key talking points. If you need to brush up on your public speaking skills, this blog post can help you master the basics.
  • Proofread the deck: Read through your deck, first checking for spelling and grammar errors, and then checking for structural or formatting inconsistencies. If you can, enlist a friend or colleague to proofread your deck as well—it never hurts to have fresh eyes take a look!

Delivering your presentation:

  • Arrive early: What could be worse than preparing to deliver remarks, only to realize that you are missing the correct cords to connect to the projector or have trouble opening your presentation? By getting to the presentation venue ahead of schedule, you will give yourself time to set up your deck so the PowerPoint is ready to go when your audience arrives.
  • Use your deck to your advantage: If you lose your place in your presentation or forget what comes next, no need to panic—it’s all on your slides! Your deck can be a tool to help you remember your next talking point.
  • Speak clearly and pace yourself: Use your slides to pace yourself. Before rushing to the next slide, ask yourself: Have I covered everything on this slide? If you have, move on to the next slide.

After your presentation:

  • Assess your deck: Once you have given your presentation, you can take a step back and ask yourself whether your deck added to, or detracted from, your presentation. Did your audience seem engaged? Was your slide structure confusing? Did your slides help you remember your place, or did they get you off track? Then, work to correct these issues for your next presentation.
  • Ask for feedback: If you can, ask an audience member you know (or someone else who attended your presentation) for feedback. This can be an excellent resource for when you build your next PowerPoint deck.

With these tips, you can feel confident in your ability to build powerful, persuasive PowerPoint presentations. Be sure to practice your public speaking skills so that you feel prepared to address an audience—this video is a good resource to learn the basics of public speaking. Remember: each PowerPoint deck you create and present is an opportunity to convey your most important message, so use PowerPoint as a tool to enhance your presentation.