Tech Tip Tuesday: Powerful (PowerPoint) Presentations

Following up on my recent post on public speaking, this Tech Tip Tuesday segment will focus on using presentation software, also known as slideware, more effectively.  I humbly offer my 10 Tips on making your PowerPoint presentations more powerful.  Before I launch into my 10 Tips, let me first say that PowerPoint is not your only option.  There are other presentation tools you can use:

Tip #1

Now that we covered a variety of tools, my first tip is to say that presentation software such as PowerPoint is just a tool.  This means your focus should not be on the PowerPoint, but rather the presentation itself. 

Tip #2

Know the essential parts of your presentation:  you, your content, your audience, and your tools.  Knowing and understanding the first three of these essential parts requires more than just a few tips, so let’s now focus just on the tools.

Tip #3

Presentations are about communicating, so presentation software really is communication software.   Effective communication is about making connections, telling a story, having an emotional impact.  Make a storyboard so that the software you use aids you in telling a compelling story that will support you in making meaningful connections.   There are plenty of storyboarding tools as well, including basic index card.

Tip #4

Create slides that reinforce your words and what you want to say.  Don’t create slides that contain all your words.  Leave that to the ‘you’ part of your presentation.

Tip #5

Use effective images in combination with words.  Don’t use clip art or cheesy images.  Creative Commons is a great source for images.  Some recommend using pictures alone with no words to really grab an audience’s attention.  I prefer using some words to reinforce what I say as well.  Sometimes a picture may be obvious to you, but it may not be obvious to your audience, so using some literary prompts can be helpful.

Tip #6

Limit the use of transitions and sound effects.  This is an area where I see many people spend way too much time and energy.  It is an effort to make one’s presentation interesting, engaging, and entertaining.  That is not the responsibility of the tools, but again that should be left to the ‘you’ part of your presentation.  If you need to add flash and gizmos to make your presentation interesting and engaging, then you need to re-evaluate your message and work on your content more.

Tip #7

Use color and contrast wisely.  I try not to rely on the themes that come pre-packaged with the software.  I have a few templates that I have created on my own and I’ve also borrowed some from others that have done appealing slides.  Contrast between your background color and your font is important: dark on light or light on dark.  In-between should be avoided.  Using a beige font color on a light blue background will make it nearly impossible for your audience to see your slide.  They will be focus more on your slide, and getting aggravated with not being able to read it, and their focus will not be on you and your message.

Tip #8

Same with fonts.  No, don’t use colorful and contrasting fonts, but rather use fonts that are easy to read.  And size does matter.  Just because you can read it sitting a foot from your computer doesn’t mean that someone in row 15 of your audience can read it.

Tip #9

Going back to tip #4 about not putting all your words on your slide.  It may be helpful to have your words someplace, though.  Use note cards for that and have them with you.  Most of us don’t have the luxury of a teleprompter, nor do we have photographic memories (especially when slightly nervous), so having something to cue us throughout the presentation is very helpful.  Too many people use PowerPoint for that purpose.  Additionally, your handouts shouldn’t be a copy of your slides, but rather material that reinforces your message, or even (gasp!) gives your audience some deeper reading for later.

Tip #10

Include some feedback loops through out your presentation.  This can be thought-provoking questions, discuss sessions, or even instant surveys (more tools…for another time!).

More Tips

There are a lot more tips to have a more powerful presentation:  prepare, practice, relax, enjoy, and most of all continue the conversation after your presentation.  Learn from others and learn by doing.   Try new software, experiment.  Talk about something you are passionate about.  Don’t overuse or abuse PowerPoint.  What tips do you have for making presentations better, more meaningful, and more engaging?

Say What?!?

On May 11, I had the pleasure of presenting at the South Central Chapter of the Pennsylvania Library Association.  My topic was on how to be a better public speaker.  Public speaking is not something that most people enjoy doing; in fact, it often appears in the top ten of lists of fears and phobias. ‘Fear of Public Speaking’ is just one of several workplace fears or phobias that could affect your overall job performance. My philosophy has always been one where I would prefer to be in control of a fear, rather than let a fear control me. It is tough being a good public speaker, but as with any performance activity, recognizing that angst and practicing a lot are two things that will certainly help.

Below is the PowerPoint I used in my presentation, followed by a few resources that I have found to be particularly useful.



Of course I am going to offer some books to read!  There are a ton of books that deal with Public Speaking, but these two are ones that I consider essential reading.  Feel free to share others that may have helped you.

How To Develop Self-Confidence And Influence People by Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie

The Confident Speaker: Beat Your Nerves and Communicate at Your Best in Any Situation by Harrison Monarth and Larina Kase

Online Resources!

Toastmasters International:

No organization has improved public speaking as much as Toastmasters International! This tried and true method has improved the speaking and leadership skills of millions. There are 174 clubs in Pennsylvania alone!

The Power of Introverts:

Statistically, many librarians tend to be more introverted, so this website is especially geared to that characteristic.  I am more of an extrovert, but I have learned a lot from Susan’s blog and now have her book on my reading list as well! Susan Cain offers great tips on public speaking and has committed herself to “becoming the best and bravest speaker” she can be, which she is calling her ‘Year of Speaking Dangerously’.  Imagine if we all embarked on such a mission!

Dale Carnegie Blog:

You can’t go wrong with Dale Carnegie.  I recommend several of his books actually; they are timeless classics, such as How to Win Friends and Influence People.  The blog continues his legacy by offering great tips and advice, not only on public speaking, but on a variety of other topics as well.  Here’s a link to a The Art of Public Speaking, available as a free ebook.

Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation:

I talk a lot about content and confidence and delivery and even though I use PowerPoint, I don’t rely on it, or at least I try not to.  This is a great example of what a difference using PowerPoint can make in a great presentation :)

Learn from Others / Be Inspired

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading:

This is one of my all time favorite websites.  And now you can do your own local TED–great public speaking opportunity!

Big Think:

Big Think calls itself a Knowledge Forum.  They say what they do better than I can:  “we aim to help you move above and beyond random information, toward real knowledge, offering big ideas from fields outside your own that you can apply toward the questions and challenges in your own life.”


99% is about making ideas happen.  This site has a whole video section where you can browse by category.

That should certainly be enough to keep you busy for a while.  Just remember, reading all about it isn’t the same as doing it, so get out there and speak!