The benefits versus drawbacks of using PowerPoint® presentations can stir lively conversation in the workplace. Some would go so far as to toss out PowerPoint presentations altogether, such as the late Steve Jobs, who believed they stifled creative thinking. Others firmly stand by them as an effective way to communicate.

I believe that a well-crafted PowerPoint presentation can be, well, powerful and pointed. Appealing and engaging slides can bring focus to a discussion, present complex facts and figures in a way that’s easy for an audience to grasp, spark lively dialogue, and enable teams to come to closure on solving a problem or diving into a new project. For example, companywide webcasts, financial discussions and strategic business reviews benefit greatly from solidly crafted PowerPoint presentations. And sending the slides to your audience after a meeting serves as an important resource and often a way to keep a dialogue going. In essence, PowerPoint can become a very effective language for communicating thoughts, ideas and actions.

Of course, getting a PowerPoint presentation “just right” can take a great deal of time and effort. I’ve seen colleagues labor over slides to the point of exhaustion, struggling to cram in as much information as possible. That can be a lose-lose proposition that exhausts both the presenter and the audience.

The key is to strike a balance between too many words and too few; between “eye chart” graphics and appealing visuals – not an easy task, I admit. But PowerPoint slides are meant to enhance a presentation and engage an audience – not overwhelm them with information or eliminate the need for discussion.

You don’t have to search too hard to find useful tips for constructing a “powerful” PowerPoint presentation. I uncovered quite a few, including some that deserve mentioning. Here they are, not in any particular order of importance:

  • Use slides to highlight or underscore thoughts or ideas by displaying a photo or graphic or using just a few key words. In fact, I don’t know of any hard-and-fast rule that says a slide can’t just be an eye-grabbing graphic or photo. As the saying goes, a picture can be worth a thousand words.
  • Try to limit ideas to one per slide.
  • Keep in mind the key messages you want to drive in a slide and define the slide accordingly.
  • Keep the words short, simple and direct.
  • Never read a slide word for word. Pick out the key points and reinforce them.
  • Don’t try to use all the fancy features that come with PowerPoint, such as animation or transitional gimmicks. They often tend to distract more than engage the audience.
  • Do use high-contrast color pallets so your slides are easy to read and attractive to look at. Don’t attempt to use too many colors because that can be distracting. It’s actually best to use the same color theme throughout the presentation for visual continuity.
  • Keep the number of slides to a minimum.
  • Make sure to engage your audience in discussion either as you go through the presentation or after you wrap up.

You’ll find many other useful tips and tricks from two sites I recently visited: and

It’s important to remember that PowerPoint is just one of the many tools you have in your oratorical tool belt, so don’t be afraid to branch out and add other elements to your presentations like relating a personal anecdote or even asking your audience to take a quick pop quiz.

Clearly, the power of an effective PowerPoint presentation cannot be underestimated. And knowing how to put that power to work effectively will engage and energize your audience – and keep them awake.

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