10 PowerPoint Tips for Preparing a Professional Presentation
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A professional presentation is all about impressions. Your slides should look the part. When you know how to prepare professional-looking presentations, you can customize a PowerPoint template or create your own custom slides.

Our PowerPoint tips 10 Tips for Making Better PowerPoint Presentations with Office 2016 10 Tips for Making Better PowerPoint Presentations with Office 2016 Microsoft PowerPoint continues to set new standards. New features in PowerPoint 2016 manifest its top spot as the best option for smart and creative presentations. Read More  will help you avoid common mistakes, keep your audience engaged, and create a professional presentation, in form and content.

PowerPoint Slide Design

The design can leave a first and lasting impression. Give it a professional touch to win your audience’s trust and attention.

1. Carefully Compose Your Slides

Don’t copy and paste slides from different sources. You don’t want your presentation to look like a rag rug. What you’re aiming for is a consistent look. This will help your audience focus on the essential; your speech and the key facts you’re highlighting on your slides.

To that end, use a basic template or make your own. PowerPoint comes with a wide selection of professional PowerPoint presentation templates 7 Places Where You Can Find Beautiful Presentation Templates Fast 7 Places Where You Can Find Beautiful Presentation Templates Fast Your search for last minute presentation templates comes to an end with these online resources. These template websites cover both PowerPoint and Google Slides. Read More , but you can also find free ones online.

PowerPoint Tip: When you open PowerPoint, note the search field at the top. One of the suggested searches is “presentations”. Click it to see all of PowerPoint’s default presentation templates. Choose a category on the right to narrow down your search.

An overview of PowerPoint's default presentation templates.

Pick an easy to read font face. It’s hard to get this right, but these professional-looking Google fonts are a safe bet. Unless you’re a designer, stick to a single font face and limit yourself to playing with safe colors and font sizes.

10 Commandments of Typography infographic
Image Credit: Designmantic.com

If you’re unsure about fonts, refer to The 10 Commandments of Typography shown above for orientation.

Carefully select font sizes for headers and text. On the one hand, you don’t want to create a wall of text 9 PowerPoint Mistakes to Avoid for Perfect Presentations 9 PowerPoint Mistakes to Avoid for Perfect Presentations It's easy to screw up your PowerPoint presentation. Let's take a look at mistakes you probably make when presenting your slideshow, and how to correct them. Read More and lose your audience’s attention. On the other, you do want your audience to be able to read the text that you consider key. So make your fonts large enough.

PowerPoint Tip: PowerPoint offers several different slide layouts. When you add a new slide, choose the right layout under Home > New Slide. To switch the layout of an existing slide, use Home > Layout. By using the default layouts, you can make coherent design changes across your presentation anytime you want.

PowerPoint slide layout selection

Leave room for highlights, such as images or take home messages. Some elements should stand out. So try not to bury them in background noise but give them the space they need. This could be a single quote or a single image per page with nothing but a simple header and a plain background.

Decorate scarcely but well. If you have good content, you won’t need decoration. Your template will be decoratively enough.

Note: Restrict the room your design takes up and don’t ever let the design restrict your message.

2. Use Consistency

Consistently use font face and sizes on all slides. This one goes back to using a template. If you chose a professional presentation template, the designer will have taken care of this aspect. Stick to it!

Match colors. This is where so many presentations fail. You might have chosen a funky template and stuck to the designer’s color profile, then you ruin it all with ugly Excel charts 9 Tips for Formatting an Excel Chart in Microsoft Office 9 Tips for Formatting an Excel Chart in Microsoft Office First impressions matter. Don't let an ugly Excel chart scare off your audience. Here's everything you need to know about making your charts attractive and engaging in Excel 2016. Read More .

Take the time to match your visuals to your presentation design.

Text and Background Colors

A poor choice of colors can ruin your presentation.

3. Use Contrast

Black text on a white background will always be the best, but also the most boring choice. You’re allowed to use colors! But use them responsibly.

Keep it easy on the eyes and always keep good contrast in mind. If you’re color-challenged, use one of the many online tools to select a good looking color palette. Or just use a template and stick to its default colors.

PowerPoint Tip: Use PowerPoint’s Design menu to quickly change the font and color palette of your entire presentation using preset design layouts.

Change PowerPoint Presentation design

4. Apply Brilliance

Carefully use color to highlight your message! Colors are your friends. They can make numbers stand out or your Take Home Message pop.

Don’t weaken the color effect by using too many colors in too many instances. The special effect only works if used scarcely. Try to limit pop colors to one per slide.

Make a brilliant choice: match colors for design and good contrast to highlight your message. Use a professional color palette, to find which color will work best with your theme. Use The 10 Commandments of Color Theory shown below to learn more about colors:

10 Commandments of Color Theory infographic
Image Credit: Designmantic.com

Text on PowerPoint Slides

5. KISS

Keep It Straight and Simple. That means…

  • Keywords only on your slides.
  • Absolutely no full sentences!
  • And never read your slides, talk freely.

Remember that your slides are only there to support, not to replace your talk! You want to tell a story, visualize your data, and demonstrate key points. If you read your slides, you risk losing your audience’s respect and attention.

PowerPoint Tip: Afraid you’ll lose your train of thoughts? Add notes to your slides. Go to View and under Show click Notes to make them show up under your slides while editing. When starting your presentation, use PowerPoint’s presentation mode (go to Slide Show and under Monitors, check Use Presenter View), so you can glance at your notes when needed.

PowerPoint presentation notes

6. Take Home Message

Always summarize your key point in a Take Home Message. Ask yourself, if your audience learned or remembered one single thing from your presentation, what would you like it to be? That’s your Take Home Message.

The Take Home Message is your key message, a summary of your data or story. If you’re giving an hour-long presentation, you might have several Take Home Messages. That’s OK. Just make sure that what you think is key, really matters to your audience.

Make your Take Home Message memorable. It’s your responsibility that your audience takes home something valuable. Help them “get it” by making your Take Home Message stand out, either visually or through how you frame it verbally.

Presentation Visuals

Images are key elements of every presentation. Your audience has ears and eyes, they want to see what you’re talking about, and a good visual cue will help them understand your message much better.

7. Add Images

Have more images in your slides than text. Visuals are your friends. They can illustrate your points and support your message.

But do not use images to decorate! That’s a poor use of visuals because it’s just a distraction.

Images can reinforce or complement your message. So use images to visualize or explain your story.

PowerPoint Tip: Need a visual, but don’t have one at hand? PowerPoint is connected to Bing’s library of online images you can use for your presentations. Go to Insert and under Images select Online Images. You can browse by category or search the library. Be sure to set a checkmark for Creative Commons only, so you don’t accidentally violate copyrights.

Insert online pictures into PowerPoint

Note: Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words. In other words, if you don’t have time for a thousand words, use a picture!

PowerPoint Animations and Media

In animations, there is a fine line between a comic and a professional impression. But animations can be powerful tools to visualize and explain complicated matters. A good animation can not only improve understanding, it can also make the message stick with your audience.

8. Don’t Be Silly

Sparingly use animations and media. You should only use them in one of two cases:

  • To draw attention, for example to your Take Home Message.
  • To clarify a model or emphasize an effect.

Embed the media in your presentation How to Embed a YouTube Video & Other Media in Your PowerPoint Presentation How to Embed a YouTube Video & Other Media in Your PowerPoint Presentation Typical presentations are dull affairs with text and corporate backgrounds providing little of interest. Media files can lighten up the experience. We show you how to embed even videos. Read More and make sure it works in presentation mode. Testing your presentation at home will save you time and avoid embarrassment.

Target Your Presentation Content

Your target, i.e. your audience, defines the content of your presentation. For example, you cannot teach school kids about the complicated matters of the economy, but you may be able to explain to them what the economy is in the first place and why it is important.

9. Keep Your Audience in Mind

When you compile your PowerPoint presentation, ask yourself these questions:

  • What does my audience know?
  • What do I need to tell them?
  • What do they expect?
  • What will be interesting to them?
  • What can I teach them?
  • What will keep them focused?

Answer these questions and boil your slides down to the very essentials. In your talk, describe the essentials colorfully and use your weapons, i.e. text, images, and animations wisely (see above).

Note: If you fail to hit the target, it won’t matter how ingenious your design is or how brilliantly you picked colors and keywords. Nothing matters more than your audience’s attention.

10. Practice Your Presentation Like a Professional

A well practiced and enthusiastic talk will help you convince your audience and keep their attention. Here are some key points that define a good talk:

  • Know your slides inside out.
  • Speak freely.
  • Speak with confidence—loud and clear.
  • Speak at a steady pace, better too slow than too fast.
  • Keep eye contact with your audience.

One Final PowerPoint Presentation Tip

I’ve shown you how to think through your entire presentation, from choosing a design to speaking to your audience. Here’s a mind trick: never try to interpret the looks on your listeners’ faces. Chances are, you’re wrong. Just assume they’re focused and taking notes.

You’ve done your best to bring them a professional PowerPoint presentation and your audience wants to learn from you. The looks on their faces aren’t doubt or confusion. It’s focus! Well, d’oh! Obviously, you’re the expert and they’re the learners. If you can get into this mindset, you can relax and perform at your best.

For your next professional presentation, try one of these PowerPoint add-ins and template resources 5 PowerPoint Add-Ins and Sites for Free Templates to Make Beautiful Presentations 5 PowerPoint Add-Ins and Sites for Free Templates to Make Beautiful Presentations Take advantage of these sites, guides, and add-ins to create a gorgeous PowerPoint presentation that wows your audience. Read More  or if you need templates for PowerPoint business pitch decks 10 Awesome Business Pitch Deck Templates to Wow Your Audience 10 Awesome Business Pitch Deck Templates to Wow Your Audience These awesome business pitch deck templates give you powerful ways to communicate your ideas to the people who matter most. Read More , we have you covered there too.

Explore more about: Color Schemes, Fonts, Microsoft Office Tips, Microsoft PowerPoint, Presentations, Typography.

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  1. Soe Nay Htet LIn
    November 24, 2017 at 8:31 am

    Thanks it is very useful indeed

  2. Oron
    July 29, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    That's a great article, and I would like to add my 2p worth to it:
    1. Ask yourself why you are creating a PowerPoint presentation. Does it really add anything over and above what a spoken presentation would do? If so, good - focus on that!
    2. Keep text to an absolute minimum. Even keywords become tiresome if there are too many of them (death by PowerPoint anyone?).
    3. If your presentation is graphics-rich (such as a slide show), consider using a black background on the slides. It's an awful lot easier on the eye (to understand why, thing of going to the cinema, the film isn't surrounded by a brightly coloured wall, is it?).

    • Tina Sieber
      July 31, 2017 at 7:36 pm

      Thank you, Oron! Great points.

  3. Ruqayya
    August 9, 2016 at 11:49 am

    i usually add a good colour tone but its never bright is that okay?

    • Tina Sieber
      August 9, 2016 at 11:52 am

      Yes, a sane choice of colors is important too. Nobody wants to stare at neon colors or black & white for long.

  4. Ajay
    November 12, 2015 at 7:51 am

    key points are very good,above thoughts are useful to me

    • Ruqayya
      August 9, 2016 at 11:50 am

      same here

  5. Anonymous
    October 28, 2015 at 10:58 pm

    I came here looking for ways to efficiently present a scientific presentation for school, and this is not what I was looking for; most of these tips are ways to make the presentation look good, so when tips are given, they should include methods for arranging information, selecting correct presentation pictures, what type of pictures, and for how to organize the presentation as a whole. You say 'decorate scarcely but well', but this is contradictory; you are advising to put color, contrast, and animation, on which you do explain well on what to do and what not to do, but I really think you should have talked more about 'professional' presentation of information, but I am not saying these tips are bad.

    • Tina Sieber
      October 30, 2015 at 10:48 am

      Thank you for sharing your feedback, Amam!

      We will keep this in mind when potentially re-working this article.

      • Erin
        May 3, 2016 at 12:27 am

        Personally I thought it provided information exactly as the subject heading read with 'preparing' the operative word. It helped me a great deal in one of my final projects for a Pp class. Thank you.

        • Tina Sieber
          May 3, 2016 at 1:11 pm

          Thank you for your feedback, Erin.

    • Cat
      June 11, 2016 at 7:39 pm

      I must disagree. This actually hits most of the criteria I used defending my dissertation (developmental biology). Best piece of advice: Let your figures tell the story. Most of my slides were photos taken with a high power microscope, or charts & graphs. Second best piece of advice. Don't try to re-teach your discipline to your audience-stick to what you need them to know, not what they already know. I didn't use transitions or any animations or "artsy" stuff. I saw some folks try them and it looked childish.

    • Ruqayya
      August 9, 2016 at 11:51 am

      That makes sense

    • Oron
      July 29, 2017 at 8:26 pm

      The question of efficient display of scientific data is a HUGE one in its own right, and there's no way an article about using PowerPoint can address it in a meaningful way. Get yourself a copy of E. Tufte's "The Visual Displayt of Quantitative Information" and you'll be well on the way to developing good practice in that area.

  6. A girl
    May 4, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Omg, this helped me. Thank you!

  7. lalan kumar
    April 24, 2015 at 2:47 am

    Thanks, sky blue is best to see more time slide

    • Ruqayya
      August 9, 2016 at 11:52 am

      what about biege on a purple background

  8. Waylin
    April 7, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    Good really helpful.

  9. Sandhya.S
    March 6, 2015 at 4:01 am

    good Tips.,.. it helps me to take this info to my junior colleagues also....

    • awsome
      April 7, 2015 at 3:25 pm

      Nope

  10. PORFERIO O. BAJO Jr
    March 4, 2015 at 9:35 am

    THANKS FOR THE TIPS ,. Interesting!!!!

  11. Supriya
    February 17, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    Good set of tips for preparation of PPT and presentation.

  12. Daniel
    January 12, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    Nice one...i'm a powerpointer my self and i've learned that at the end of a presentation you would have either passed your message across or you have successfully confused your audience...i think COMPLETENESS is key..

  13. dave doob
    November 13, 2009 at 10:49 am

    silly billy

  14. Presentation Skills
    September 26, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Good set of tips here. Powerpoint is so often misused by presenters.

    Here's a link on (alternative) . AKA The PowerPoint Comedy show on video. Hope you like it.

  15. Gihan
    August 24, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    that is very important and critical matters when making a presentation.Thanks

  16. Jada
    June 18, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Great advice! Many times presenters use PowerPoint presentations as a crutch and while they are good for supporting the main points that the speaker makes, I don't recommend relying to heavily on slides and posting the entire speech on them. Follow the Rule of Six: No more than 6 lines of text per slide and no more than 6 words per line.

    [Broken Link Removed]

  17. Acronyms
    June 16, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Excellent check list. So many people need to pick up this ideas ;) Thanks.

  18. honour chick
    May 28, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    excellent advice. w/ emphasis on "simple" ;)

  19. Vince
    May 25, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Hey Tina, this top ten list is fantastic. These are all really great tips. #2 is extremely important, I can't tell you how many presentations I have seen that are all over the place, which makes it very hard to follow. Plus it totally distracts attention away from the speaker. You can post this to our site toptentopten.com/ and link back to your site. We are trying to create a directory for top ten lists where people can find your site. The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.

  20. Rick Winkler
    May 24, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    I can't tell you the number of bad PowerPoint presentations I have had to sit through.

  21. Giacomo Ratta [ITA]
    May 24, 2009 at 5:43 am

    This is a very useful article. A good powerpoint presentation is better than 1000 words.

  22. Tobias
    May 24, 2009 at 1:10 am

    Nice article. USE HUMOR is one of my favorate rules!

    Btw, as an extra ressource to presentationhelper you can download powerpoint templates at Powerpointing.com

    • Tina
      May 25, 2009 at 4:38 pm

      Humor is indeed a powerful tool. It keeps your audiences' attention, even if the content of your talk is boring by nature.

  23. Mark
    May 23, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    Folks, this is all saying things about style and color. What I see missing is Intro-topics-main points-summary-closing and last but not least don't powerpoint everything! Some things need a written report. Pitches and getting buy in to a new initiative yes. Beyond that, Powerpoint may hurt more than help. Google Tufte Powerpoint for a detailed critique

  24. John - TechListReport.com
    May 23, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Oh my gosh! So many people I wish would follow these tips!

    I linked this article on my site.

    • Tina
      May 25, 2009 at 4:41 pm

      Thanks John. I'm glad you found this article useful.

  25. daybringer
    May 23, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Where is run spell cheek?
    (Its spelled wrong on purpose.)

    • Tina
      May 23, 2009 at 10:19 pm

      Very good point there!

  26. James
    May 23, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Black text on white is VERY hard to read under anything less than perfect lighting conditions.

  27. mipme kampfkolos
    May 23, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Very nice! We can only hope that peolpe start sticking to these rules...
    And you missed one:

    NEVER EVER USE WORDART!!!

  28. Ankit Agrawal
    May 23, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Thanks for the tips.. :)

    • Brett
      April 7, 2015 at 11:50 pm

      Thanks for your tip

  29. hrdo
    May 23, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Many good tips here, but you won't get far without the two most important prerequisites for public speaking; contents and confidence! Building confidence can be done using a systematic approach - making you able of delivering stunning presentations, with or without powerpoint. I'm blogging about my system at laifmanage.blogspot.com .

  30. hrdo
    May 23, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Many good tips here - but the most important thing of all is content. I think for giving good presentations you need three things, sorted by order of importance: contents, confidence and slides! For building confidence, one should adapt a system of self management such that successes become very visible to one self; laifmanage.blogspot.com.

  31. Aeryn
    May 23, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Something to add to #3 Use Contrast
    Think about limiting the use of reds and greens in case someone in the audience might be colour blind.

    • Tina
      May 23, 2009 at 9:47 am

      That is true. And the same applies for blue and yellow, another type of color blindness.

  32. Simon Slangen
    May 23, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Don't be silly +1

    • Brett
      April 7, 2015 at 11:50 pm

      HAHHAHAHAHHAHA hilarious