I’m guessing you’ve had to sit through an awful PowerPoint presentation at some point in your life.
Used well, PowerPoint can be an enormously valuable tool, one that can help you communicate more effectively. As presenters, we want to focus our audience’s attention on exactly the point we want them to focus on. As Garr Reynolds writes in the excellent Presentation Zen Design, “White space is not nothing.
This slide, from one of our training workshops, is a good example of a slide with plenty of white space. Words on a screen can do those things, but not nearly as well as an inspired presenter who uses simple graphics and visuals to reinforce the most important points. That slide isn’t terrible, but it’s not likely to reach the audience on an emotional level.
Many presenters print their PowerPoint presentations and distribute them to the audience as a takeaway document.
The problem with that approach is that speakers end up developing what Nancy Duarte calls a “slideument”—a slide that is half written document and half presentation visual. Slides are intended to help the audience remember your information—not to help you remember your own information. Instead of using your slides as your speaking notes, print out your notes on paper or notecards.
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I _always_ use one of these (whichever color better fits my template and the surroundings) to turn off the image when I want people to look at me.
I think leaving the last slide there, after it has been read by the audience, when you want to explain further, isn’t enough.


When there is a PowerPoint presentation in the offing, part of me wants to be caught up in the visual underlining of what the speaker is saying.
After many years working with PowerPoint and witnessing presentations I could see, bad, average and good presentations.
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They want an easy answer, such as “one per minute,” but the truth is that there’s no easy answer. But when speakers fill almost every centimeter of their slides with words, bullets, and graphics, they give the audience no sense of priority. White space—or “empty” space—is a critical component of guiding viewers to your most important point. The main goal—as with all communication—is to transfer information, knowledge, or inspiration from you to your audience.
The point I wanted to make with that slide was this: If you’re not visible when your audience is searching for you, it’s as if you don’t exist.
Because the presenters know their slides won’t make sense without explanation, they add a lot of text to make sure their slides can be understood months or years after their presentation. Slideuments fail in both roles; they lack the detail required by a written document but are too cluttered to serve as an effective visual. Design visuals that grab the audience’s attention and demand your explanation during your presentation, and create a detailed document that people can take away from the presentation once you’ve finished speaking. Often when I attent meeting in my network then people are often just use a PowerPoint slideshow with a lot of text and no images.
Entertain me with your wit, your stories painted with glorious vocabulary, your humor…but please, don’t show anymore PowerPoint slides!


Usually PP means speaker will turn off the lights…a portion of the audience will likely nod off, or at least want to.
A few charts for the data driven are very helpful and PP is a good way to offer them, along with some duplicates as handouts as the audience is exiting. PP is NOT a safety net for the speaker but most who use it hang off it with such dependence that it sucks the life out of the remarks.
Although he’s an academic and a bit overwhelming, Edward Tufte is an expert at the corrupting effect of PowerPoint. What happens each and every time is visual text only, handouts and the eventual recycling bin with no staying power to any of the information.
Unfortunately the bad and average presentations are the predominant but this can be coached and the tips you shared in this post are good reminders for any presenter who is trying to deliver a clear message to the audience. Improve your public speaking and media interviewing skills—and enhance your career—by signing up below. Or perhaps you had to strain to see the cluttered slides, each filled with microscopic text. Some presentations would be better with no slides at all, while some expert speakers can click through 120 simple slides in an hour.
That doesn’t mean putting words on a screen, which creates a conflict for your audience (should I read or should I listen?).
When you forget what to say next, simply look down (while not speaking and remaining calm), look back up, establish eye contact, and resume speaking.
Just did this recently to an audience of about 50 and at the end of my presentation, we had great dialogue.



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