There are 300 million PowerPoint users in the world and it’s estimated that there are a million presentations happening right now. But most of them are dull or even bad. It’s bizarre and it can really hurt your career.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Once you have got to the the core of your talk–the message  you want the audience to take away–then, and only then, turn to your slide software. Here are two key tips to help you stand out from the crowd.

Think billboard, NOT document

Powerpoint Surgery jpegs for article.008

This is probably the most important thing I can pass on.

People simply try to do too many things with their slides. Fundamentally, slides are for the audience, not for the speaker. Although it’s tempting, they should not be our crutch. Once we understand that they are for our audience, we design them in a bigger and bolder way. Feel free to make a word document to hand out after your talk if you like (although no-one ever reads those documents, in my experience), but don’t make your slides in that way. Build them for the bored bloke in row 33. Nancy Duarte helpfully compared slides to billboards in her book Slide:ology. Imagine you are passing your slides at 50mph on a major road. Could you read them as you drive past? If you can’t they are too complicated and wordy. It’s a simple but effective test for us.

Design your slides, and if appropriate, write some handout notes. But keep in mind that they are two very separate things. If you’re going to produce a presentation slide deck, then do just that–don’t be tempted to make it into a hand-out with a slightly larger font.

Bullets kill

Bullets don’t just kill people, they kill presentations too. Sometimes when I see speakers present a slide with bullet points you can almost feel the people in the room deflate, they may not groan out loud, but they are inside. I’ve heard it said to limit the words on a slide to 33. I’d say 3-12! If you have more than that, then either rephrase, condense or add another slide. Be tough on bullet boredom and the causes of bullet boredom.

Give these simple tips a try this week, and watch your presentations get better and better. Tell great stories, be yourself, and let your slides be your backdrop–not your auto-cue.

Lee Jackson

This article is an exert from Lee’s book “PowerPoint Surgery: How to create presentation slides that make your message stick.” available from Amazon. Lee Jackson is a motivational speaker, powerpoint surgeon, presentation coach and the author of the 2013 book ‘Powerpoint Surgery’. He’s been speaking up front for more than twenty years in many challenging situations. As well as speaking himself, he loves helping other people to speak well too. He is a fellow of the Professional Speaking Association (PSA) and also the president of the PSA Yorkshire region. He supports the New York Knicks, is a former youth worker and was once an award winning DJ. You can get in touch with him here: via or twitter @leejackson

Dear Miss Techie,
I need to do a slideshow presentation to a client that looks professional. Do you have any tips?
All Slideshow’d Out

Giving presentations can be a daunting task. Especially when you want to make a good impression and not bore your audience to death. Although there is nothing that beats preparation, practice and more practice, here are a few tips that will help make your presentation more engaging and look professional.


  • The fewer words you have, the better
    •  There is no hard and fast rule, but try to have no more than 10 words on each slide
    • If you’re feeling adventurous, limit yourself to maximum 3 world per slide
  • Large font is good – people at the back of the room should be able to read it
    • If you can’t fit your words in, chances are you have too many words
    • Your audience can read – prepare a separate document and provide it as a handout if you have a lot of text/information
    • You should be delivering the content, not your slides. In fact, your slide should almost be meaningless without you
    • You should only have a few words there anyway (see first point)
  • Limit the number of fonts used (1 is a good number, 2-3 if you really need to)
  • Choose fonts to suit the presentation (comic sans is usually a bad choice)
  • Note: If you’re going to be presenting on a different machine, always have the font files ready to install on the presentation machine



  • Using large, good quality images can make a huge difference to your presentation
  • Make your images the primary focus of your slides
  • Finding the right image to portray the idea you want to express is not an easy task, but it’s worth it!
  • Tip: For your summary slide, use the same images that were used to convey the main points earlier in your talk (eg. if you had 4 ideas, place an image in each quadrant). It’s a nice way to tie everything back together

Where to find images?


  • Place important content on the top half of the slides – that way they’ll be visible from the back of the room
  • Unless it’s really really effective, leave out the effects/animations – they generally just distract the audience
  • Don’t stand behind a lectern/laptop – you are talking to the audience, not to the laptop
    • Try to ask for (or invest in) a presentation clicker (bluetooth mouse, though bulky will do the job!) so you can move around
    • Standing out in the open may be scary, but it will let you make more eye contact and help engage with the audience
    • Practice, practice, practice – you shouldn’t need to use notes. The images on the slides should be enough to remind you want you need to say


  • Remember that lighting might not be the best, so pick colours that have good contrast and are easy to read
  • Don’t use too many colours, three main colours is a good number to stick with
  • If you’re not restricted to company colours, have a look at Kuler. It is a great treasure trove of nice harmonious colours.

I will guarantee you that doing a presentation where there are close to no words and only images on slides is nerve racking. However, it will definitely change the way you prepare your presentations :)

If you are looking for more tips, here are a couple of great places to look at:

Good luck with it, and have fun!

Miss Techie

Featured image credit

Miss Techie, aka Peggy Kuo, is a programmer who is currently developing a mobile game. She’s also presented at Ignite Sydney. You can see what she’s up to at her website.