Have you ever been listening to a presentation and viewed a slide that was so terrible it made you instantly want to walk out of the room?
Good people make bad presentations. Why? Sometimes it's because they think making a good one takes too long; other times it's because they don't understand what makes a great presentation. Recently, the brilliant folks at
Duarte put on a slide:ology workshop
here in Boston. While that workshop contained a wealth of useful information,
and I came up with 10 key rules for better presentations here at
Today we offer our 10 rules to you as a simple test to make sure your presentations don't suck.
How to Design Great Presentations
1. No Bullets
-- Bullet points ruin presentations. Your audience can read your slides faster than you can read it to them. When you use bullet points, you take away from your talent as a speaker and reduce your meeting or presentation to a read-aloud session. Bullets work great in reports and documents, but keep them out of your presentations.
2. Start on Paper
-- PowerPoint is a great tool, but starting your presentations on the computer will only box you into the templates that Microsoft and your company has created. Instead, grab a couple pieces of paper and a stack of sticky notes. Treat each sticky note as a slide and write the overall idea of each slide needed on a stick note. Then peel and place them on the paper until you have a solid presentation outline that tells your story. During this process, it is common to reorder your sticky note slides several times.
3. The 30pt Rule
-- Your audience does not have super-human vision. When you use text on your slides, use a font size no smaller than 30pt. Any smaller, and your audience won't be able to read the text on your slides.
4. No Starbursts
-- What is a starburst? When you think about it, it's really just a crazy circle that serves no purpose. When we refer to this rule, a better way to think about it is to make sure your slides are simple. Don't use crazy shapes of clip art in an effort to "jazz up" your slides. Instead, think about what you can delete from your slide to make sure the message you are trying to communicate is clear.
5. 1 Thought Per Slide
-- Presentations give you the opportunity to tell your story and sell your ideas. When a slide is packed with five different ideas, your story is lost. When you are looking through your slides, make sure they only communicate one idea per slide.
6. Time-Limits, Not Slide-Limits
-- Does your company ask for "3 slides" for meetings? When you're only allowed a set number of slides, it can lead you to break all of our above rules. Ask your manager to change the slide limit to a time limit. In a three-minute presentation, some presenters may use 20 slides or even more. By setting a time limit and not a slide limit, organizations can empower employees to give better presentations.
7. No Noise
-- Glance at a slide for a couple of seconds. Do you understand clearly what that slide is about? If you do not, then it likely has too much noise. Keeping slides simple is one of the most important steps you can take in making great presentations.
8. No Logo on Every Slide
-- If you are 20 minutes into a presentation and your audience doesn't know who you are and what company you are with, then you have a major problem. This problem isn't going to be solved by placing your company logo on every slide in your presentation. These logos add extra noise and distract from the story you are trying to tell.
9. No Chart Junk
-- Your presentation was likely not created for an academic class. Don't fill it with complex charts that will take your audience a minute or more to determine the data point you are trying to emphasize. Make your data clear. If you are going to use a chart, make sure its takeaway is clear. Remember that, sometimes, posting a single stat on a slide can have more of an impact than an elaborate chart you plucked out of a pivot table.
10. Tell a Story
-- The first nine rules all support this one. As a presenter, your job is to tell a story. Make sure your presentations -- both slides and speech -- work together to tell a clear story. It should consist of essential story elements like conflict and humor. Tell a story!
Will you follow these rules? What other rules would you add?
Originally published May 17, 2010 2:00:00 PM, updated July 28 2017