Effective Public Speaking

PowerPoint Presentations

The Section on Effective Public Speaking: PowerPoint Presentations gives you some important principles when using Microsoft PowerPoint in your speeches and presentations.


PowerPoint presentations are one of the most widely used format for presentations in the past decade.

They are easy to learn and nicely done Powerpoint slides can help you make a real impression despite you not being a great speaker.

I personally use PowerPoint most of the time when I make public speeches. I find that it is a great complement as a visual aid to help me in whatever point I’m trying to make. While it does take some time to prepare, I find that it is always worth the effort to do so.

Compared to just talking about data, events, people or trying to make a point, the use of Powerpoint slides can really enhance the audience’s ability to absorb what you’re saying because you’re using their eyes as well as their ears.

However, at the same time, I’ve seen PowerPoint disasters as well: PowerPoint slides that in fact don’t work for you, but work against you! I will share with you some common mistakes people commit when creating PowerPoint slides.

Effective Public Speaking
Common Mistakes in PowerPoint

1. Putting too much text in a slide

Your PowerPoint slides are NOT a word document.

In case you don’t already know, you are not supposed to place your whole script or your research analysis all on the same slide.

By putting too many words on the slides, the audience will start focusing and reading off the slides instead of focusing on you. In fact, if there are too many words, they may end up just dozing off after reading paragraphs of text.

2. Reading off your slides

One of the cardinal errors of speakers is to put their whole script on their slides and then start reading off them.

Think about it, if your readers needed to hear you read off your slides, they should be going for English lessons instead!

While it is extremely tempting to do so; it is a sign of laziness and unprofessionalism when you just read off your own slides.

3. Over decorating your slides

Remember that your slides are not marketing or advertising posters.

I have seen PowerPoint slides that overuse pictures and colors that are almost overwhelming for anybody seeing it for the first time.

It comes at you like a *BOOM* and suddenly you are faced with so much visual information you’re not sure what you should be taking in.

You are using the slides as an aid to your speech, not as a focal point and you don’t want it to be too cluttered or colorful such that the audience’s attention is turned from you.

Here are some of my tips on effective public speaking with PowerPoint slides.

Effective Public Speaking
Tips on Using PowerPoint Slides

1. The proper use of color

Use pastel or bright colors that are easy on the eye.

Colors that you use can unconsciously affect the mood of the audience so it’s good that you take some time to study the different meanings of color.

For example, blue is a color for reliability and loyalty; red is the color of passion; purple is the color of royalty. Do a search on the internet to find out more about what color portrays.

With the understanding of the kind of image you would like to portray, pick an appropriate base color for the occasion.

Also, use complementary colors and try to stick to a maximum of three within the same slide.

If you’re not sure what colors are complementary and which are clashing, you can study the color wheel so that you don’t commit the mistake of using clashing colors.

Clashing colors will give an impression of untidiness and unprofessionalism.

Most of all, your whole presentation should have a standard base color. A standard base color will help you communicate consistency and credibility through your whole presentation.

2. Use limited words

As a rule, keep your bullet points to no more than 5 per slide, and no more than 4-5 words per bullet point.

Don’t write full sentences for your bullet points; instead use short phrases to illustrate the point you are trying to make in your speech.

Basically, keep the clutter of words to a minimum and shorten your phrases as much as possible. The words on the slide should only contain the gist of the information you’re trying to convey and the explanation should be done by you in person.

3. Use visuals only if it has relevance to what you’re speak

Do not try to add pictures on your slides in an attempt to make them look more whole and complete; or even to add a picture to every bullet point you have. The use of pictures adds clutter to your slides, causing your audience to be confused about which point in the slide to be focused on.

Use visuals like graphs or a picture only if you are using it to make a point. As a guideline, keep your pictures to 1 and maximum 2 in a page, and only use them if you want the audience to focus on them.

4. Use animation to tell a story

Animation is definitely a more advanced use of the PowerPoint slides and the good use of them can help your audience follow you as you go through your presentation.

But remember to keep your animation to sharp and simple ones and not overly exaggerated entrances or exits; they really are just bad taste and end up making you look unprofessional.

If you are new to PowerPoint or the use of animation, the best is to keep these animations to the very basic.

5.Less is more

Above all, when it comes to slides, remember that less is more.

If you have watched a Steve Jobs presentation before, you’ll know what I mean. Steve Jobs uses only one word or one picture per slide most, if not all of the time.

Here’s a YouTube video of one of his hallmark presentations and notice the principles in this article being used in his presentation:

Slides are not meant to be the star of the show; they are meant to be the supporting cast while you shine in front of your audience.

While you should use these PowerPoint slides, you should only use them if it makes you present and communicate better, and makes it an effective public speaking engagement for you.

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