9 PowerPoint Mistakes to Avoid for Perfect Presentations

Ben Stegner 09-01-2017

Giving an effective PowerPoint presentation 5 Powerpoint Tips to Improve Your Presentation Skills Overnight You step up to the podium. Your palms are sweaty, your heart is racing, and just as you're about to open your mouth and speak, your mind goes blank. Need help? Read More is an art. We’ve all sat through a dreadful slideshow that we couldn’t wait to escape from. Whether due to a drab speaker Slay These 8 Public Speaking Demons to Conquer Your Fear It's often said that people fear public speaking more than death. But it's something that many have to do regularly. Here are eight public speaking demons and how to kill them. Read More or lousy slides, there’s usually room for improvement.


The good news is you can prevent your audience from hating your next presentation! Let’s review the most common mistakes people make when preparing and giving a PowerPoint presentation. Knowing these recurrent blunders gives you a leg up, and helps you nail your next important talk.

1. You Load Up Slides With Text

Perhaps the biggest mistake people make in presentations is overloading every slide with text. This detracts from your talk for several reasons. For one, people are naturally inclined to read everything on the screen. If it takes them half a minute to digest everything, they aren’t listening to you during that time.

If you have too much text on a slide and advance the slideshow before someone has a chance to read through everything, they might get upset and stop paying attention to the slideshow at all. Less is more with text. Don’t be afraid to use space to add emphasis to what’s present, or break a particularly meaty section into two slides.

When in doubt, remember that people are either going to pay attention to your slides, or pay attention to you. If you tend towards wordiness, stick to bullet points Avoid Murder By PowerPoint: How To Make Your Presentations Compelling And Memorable Most of us have created a PowerPoint and done a presentation (or will at some point) and yet it is likely to be one of the most poorly done things on a computer. Bad PowerPoint... Read More and short phrases instead of sentences. For a rule of thumb, limit yourself to five bullet points per slide, with no more than five words per bullet point.


2. You Use Stupid Transitions

Every new version of PowerPoint includes more wacky transitions 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 , but you shouldn’t use them. Aside from being resource-intensive on weaker machines Are Cheap Laptops a Good Deal or Waste of Money? Cheap laptops might seem like a great way to save money, but here are some things to consider before you go that route. Read More , many slide transition effects are distracting and don’t add anything to your talk.

You should certainly use a transition to keep the slideshow interesting, but stick with something simple like a wipe or slide. And never, ever select the Random option since it will undoubtedly choose the wildest transition at the worst time. You don’t want your audience to worry more about what transition is coming next than what you’ll say next.

3. You Mix Fonts and Colors

While you don’t want your slideshow to feature black Times New Roman text with a white background, it’s easy to overdo it in the other direction, too. If you choose to get colorful How To Pick A Color Scheme Like A Pro Colors are tricky. It might seem easy enough to pick a handful of colors that look good together, but as any designer who has spent hours tweaking shades will tell you: it's tricky. Read More , stick to a few colors that blend well and use them for emphasis.

The same goes for fonts. You should choose a font that’s easy to read. As fancy as handwritten script looks 15 Free Handwriting Fonts You Should Download Now Whether you're creating an infographic or coming up with a logo, you may be in need of a good handwriting font. Check these out! They're some of the best for free. Read More , it’s probably impossible to read if you’re not standing right in front of the screen How To Make Text Easier To Read In Windows Most of us spend hours reading on the computer every day, but our computers probably aren’t optimized for reading. The text on our monitors may not be sharp enough or may be too small, especially... Read More . Try to stick to one font throughout the entire presentation, and definitely don’t mix fonts on the same slide!


Few colors and fonts make for solid presentations because they mean consistency. It’s childish to cram as many pretty fonts and colors onto one slide as you can. It looks messy, and while Georgia font isn’t too exciting, people would prefer to read your text instead of admiring how fancy it looks.

4. You Read Slides Verbatim

This one might take the prize for worst possible trait during a PowerPoint presentation. Reading your slides word for word will bore the audience, and makes you seem rigid instead of dynamic 9 Steps to Becoming a Better Public Speaker Read More .

Remember two important notes to help with this problem. First, PowerPoint slides don’t need to contain every little bit of information you’re discussing. Use them as little attention-grabbers so your audience understands the current topic, but wants to listen to you explain more.

Second, your PowerPoint slides are not for your use! Your slideshow is not the presentation — the presentation is your talk. PowerPoint slides are simply a tool you use to better communicate. You shouldn’t need your slides to stay on topic. Practicing will help with this.


If you have trouble remembering what you want to say, use the notes section of each PowerPoint slide. Then when you display the slideshow, your monitor will display a snapshot of the current and next slide, along with any notes you’ve jotted for that slide. Stopping to turn around and look at your slides, or reading them aloud, will not effectively bring your message to the audience. Anyone in the audience could stand up and read the slide, but you know the material.

5. Your Charts Are Complex and Useless

Adding media other than text (in moderation) to a slide makes it more interesting and grabs the audience’s attention. When you’re representing data in the presentation, charts are an easy way to show the relevant information in one image.

Charts are great 8 Types of Excel Charts and Graphs and When to Use Them Graphics are easier to grasp than text and numbers. Charts are a great way to visualize numbers. We show you how to create charts in Microsoft Excel and when to best use what kind. Read More , but it’s important that you don’t go overboard with them. The audience won’t have the patience to decipher all sorts of colors, trend lines, keys, and text. If the chart isn’t self-explanatory for the average audience member, or if you can’t explain it in a sentence, you need to make it less complicated How to Create Powerful Graphs & Charts in Microsoft Excel A good graph can make the difference between getting your point across or leaving everyone dozing off. We show you how to create powerful graphs in Microsoft Excel that will engage and inform your audience. Read More .

6. Your Template Is Boring

Take the extra few minutes to find a template that fits your presentation, or even make your own 7 Tips for Creating Professional PowerPoint Templates Nobody benefits from a boring PowerPoint presentation. Use these tips to make sure your efforts always grab their audience. Read More if you’re so inclined. While some of the built-in PowerPoint templates might seem a little generic, you’ll likely find one that’s sharp without being overbearing. Don’t choose anything that’s too wacky with all sorts of colors, but feel free to find something unique.


Black text on a white background is ugly, but white text on a black background is passable if you don’t have any other options. If you need some help, check out awesome free PowerPoint templates The Best Free PowerPoint Templates for Your Project Presentation How you present your project is at least as important as what you present because what your audience will remember is how you made them feel. Wow them with professional PowerPoint templates for project management. Read More for everyone.

7. You Minimize PowerPoint for Other Media

As great as PowerPoint is, often you have to leave the slideshow to put some other content on the screen. Maybe you want to show a relevant YouTube video or visit the company’s website. While this is sometimes unavoidable, it’s jarring to jump back and forth between windows, even with slick keyboard shortcuts 60 Essential Microsoft Office Keyboard Shortcuts for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint Hundreds of keyboard shortcuts are available in Office, but these are the most important ones you should know because they will save you a lot of time. Read More .

That’s why you should embed everything you can inside your presentation. We’ve shown how to embed YouTube videos inside PowerPoint 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 it’s easy to take a screenshot How to Take the Perfect Screenshot in Windows The best way to take a screenshot depends on the version of Windows you're on. We show you the subtle differences, give troubleshooting tips, and reveal the best keyboard shortcuts and tools. Read More of any website to paste into your slides. If you can avoid leaving the slideshow, do so for a smoother experience.

8. You Don’t Remove White Space From Images

Here’s a common error that only takes a few seconds to correct. Often seen in college lecture slides and the like, many folks tend to copy and paste images from a Google search 7 Vital Google Image Search Hacks Want to use Google Images like a pro? Here are advanced tips you should know for successful image searches Read More into their slides. The trouble is that most of these images include an ugly white border around them, which looks amateurish.

white border powerpoint

You can remove this white border easily 5 Easy Ways to Remove the Background From a Picture If you want to remove a background from an image, you don't exactly need Adobe Photoshop. Here are five alternative ways to do it! Read More using a free image editor 10 Easy-to-Use Photo Editing Programs for Newbie Photographers If Adobe Lightroom seems too complex for you, check out these easy-to-use photo editing programs for beginners. Read More like Paint.NET. Just open the image, and use the magic wand tool to select the white space around the image. Press Delete to remove the white space, then hit File > Save As and make sure you save the image as a PNG. A PNG file makes that deleted space transparent, while JPEGs don’t support transparency JPEG, GIF, or PNG? Image Filetypes Explained and Tested Do you know the differences between JPEGs, GIFs, PNGs, and other image filetypes? Do you know when you should use one instead of the other? Fear not, MakeUseOf explains everything! Read More .

Paste the fixed image into your slideshow and it will look so much better!

9. You Don’t Ensure Everyone Can See the Material

Preparation is an essential part of every presentation, but you should do more than just practice your talk. Failing to ensure that people will be able to see everything you’ve put together could torpedo all your work.

If you have the chance, test your slideshow in the room where you’ll be speaking, on the equipment you’ll use. Make sure that no graphics or text appear cut off on the projector, and test out various seats in the room to confirm that the text isn’t too small from far away. This might sound excessive, but it goes a long way in producing a professional presentation.

What Presentation Mistakes Do You Hate?

PowerPoint is a relatively simple tool 5 Creative Uses Of PowerPoint Presentations You Haven't Explored Yet Microsoft PowerPoint can do much more than boring presentations. It’s PowerPoint 2013’s time now and the search for creative and uncommon uses of PowerPoint continues. Here are five. Read More , but it’s clearly difficult to master. From mistakes in slide creation to blunders during your talk, there’s a lot that could go wrong when you’re responsible for a presentation. You can improve many of these with practice, which will improve your confidence, too.

In the end, a prepared presentation can salvage poor slides. However, a lousy slideshow damages the audience’s impression of you, so it’s best to nail everything if you can. Using these tips, your slideshows will be cleaner, flow better, and further engage the audience! You can’t ask for much more than that.

What do speakers do with PowerPoint that makes you cringe? Let us know your most hated slideshow mistakes down in the comments!

Image Credit: cunaplus via Shutterstock

Related topics: Microsoft PowerPoint, Presentations, Slideshow.

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  1. Silverlokk
    January 18, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    This may be the first PPT tips article that I've read that mentioned that you can project your presentation on the screen while you read the notes on your laptop. I've sat through presentations even from IT marketing guys who simply mirrored, not extended, their latop displays

    • Ben Stegner
      January 18, 2017 at 8:33 pm

      Yes, I'm surprised how many people don't know this, too. It's such an easy way to have a "cheat sheet" for your presentation and looks so much better than looking at the screen all the time!

      • Silverlokk
        January 19, 2017 at 9:14 am

        Was using a friend's old laptop, with Office 2003 (I think, gotta check again, might've been newer than that). PowerPoint's project-to-secondary-screen option is off either the View or Slide Show menu, and far as I remember, not even on the Toolbar. Can't entirely blame users then, although if they've read the manual, they likely would use it. Point is, it's not so obvious.

        On the other hand - and I may be making an unfair comparison since the versions are newer than the PowerPoint I used- both LibreOffice Impress and Google Slides saw the secondary display, and "projected" onto it, without my having to do anything. Worked on my phone, too, using Slides. You'd have thought Microsoft would make it easier for users

  2. Tony C
    January 10, 2017 at 3:18 am

    Thanks for this.

    I teach (English) speaking to Thai university students. I have them do presentations as a part of the course, and these concepts are what I try to get across. And it's not only the students. A lot of the faculty have these same problems with their presentations. I've had to sit through presentations I'd like to walk out on!

    Do you have this in a text-only pdf document? It would be very handy to post a link to it so we could get to the meat of the article.


    • Tina Sieber
      January 20, 2017 at 12:16 pm

      Thank you for your feedback, Tony.

      If you would like to share the article, you can print it without the ads and menu items using a free online website-to-PDF printing service like

      • Tony C
        January 20, 2017 at 1:34 pm

        Thanks for that link. I have a Chrome extension on my PC at the office. I used it to create a handout, but this link would be useful for creating PDFs from my phone or tablet.

        I have another presentations class next month and will use this as a handout. I also have a PowerPoint presentation that illustrates a lot of these. They should work well together.