So how do I make a Power Point presentation that doesn't suck?

I’ve made it to the decrepit old age of 33 without having to make a Power Point Presentation, and only having to sit through them a dozen times in my life. But I hear I’m lucky, and that most people hate the things. Well, it’s finally here - I have to make a 15 minute presentation for class that has to include Power Point. Blech.

So what makes so many PPPs suck? What common pitfalls should I avoid? What will make everyone go, “OMG, what a noob!” if I do it? More importantly, what works well? What have you seen that makes you think, “hmm…maybe PP doesn’t HAVE to suck?”

Stick with a color scheme that is simple and clean. There should be several available in the Slide Design option. Something with a near white background is usually good.

Don’t bother with animating anything. If you need to have things appear in sequence, (like there is a slide and you want new things to appear when you click the mouse), then use the “Fade in” option instead of the others.

That’s all you need!

You can PM me if you want more details. I’ve made far too many power point presentations. :slight_smile:

PPT is great for pictures & maps & graphs & other kinds of information that NEEDS to be delivered visually.

And you don’t have to speak directly to every item on every slide. The visual info can supplement your talk in a more abstract way. People can process a lot of different stuff at once (just watch CNN for example).

PPTs that suck are usually either:
a) lists of bullet points
b) filled with way too much clipart, animations, sound effects, colored fonts, etc.
ETA: An Inconvenient Truth is the most effective use of Powerpoint I’ve ever seen.

Try not to put too much on each slide. It’s much better to put a couple of important points up there and verbally expand on them.

Stay away from most of the animation (as Pullet said) - mostly it comes off as hilariously cheesy rather than slick and cool.

When you’re laying out slides, mix it up a bit. Try it with the picture on the left and writing on the right, then the picture on the right and writing on the left, play with above and below, etc. Also, you can mix up photos, maps, diagrams, or whatever you’re using. Making every slide a cookie cutter of the others is a bit dull.

I also had to make my first PowerPoint last year, at the ripe old age of 28. I was apprehensive, but I actually found it pretty fun! IIRC, you’re a bio major too, right? What is you presentation on? Mine was about the diversity of the subphylum Hexapoda (insects) - lots of dorky biology fun.

Oh yeah, what Key Lime Guy said. The text should be succinct, preferably not sentences, but enough that someone looking at the slides later could get the idea.

Pictures are good, but only use ones that are relevant. Don’t use them as decoration.

How not to use PowerPoint by comedian Don McMillan.

There are quite a few other clips there also explaining how to make a good PP…

I’m not sure I agree. (maybe semantics)

Say your point is:
Turkmenistan is the fastest growing country in Asia. It is poised for tremendous economic investment. Its resources will ensure a rising GDP & standard of living. (I made all of that up.)

I’d rather see a map of Turkmenistan, for example, than a list of three bullet points.

You’d be in the minority, unless you are using the map to illustrate a point. If it has nothing to do with the three bullet points, it doesn’t belong on the slide.

Nothing is worse than chart junk.

Are you management, trying to make it look like everything is wonderful, or are you engineering, trying to convey actual information? 'Cause you know, it makes a difference.

Do not under any circumstances put your entire speech or whatever on the PPT. NOTHING is more snooze-inducing than a presentation that the presenter proceeds to read to the audience. If you have nothing more to say than what’s printed on the slides, just give everybody a hard copy and let use read it on our own.

Visual aids should meet a need that the simple spoken word does not. For example, if you need to show the relationships between things, a chart or graph can be presented. Or if the actual physical appearance of something or someone adds to the talk, use that. PPT slides are the equivalent of the pictures in a book.

Do you have a topic already, or can you select whatever you want? If you have a choice, pick something that has a lot of visual content already. Any “how to” presentation can easily use pictures, or highlighted steps. Or anything that is by nature descriptive – varieties of orchids, or the special characteristics of championship dogs, or the features of gothic architecture – would all require visuals.

I see ppt presentations in science all the time, it is the way ideas are presented - of the bad presentations I see it’s rarely the appearance of the powerpoint that’s the problem. If you use a clear, uncluttered background and everyone can read your slides then there shouldn’t be a problem. It’s far more important, and challenging, to get the basics of the talk right. Things like structure, pacing, emphasis, making it engaging etc etc is a much bigger deal.

One better, put the Turkmen flag up there. Some things are intended to be a clear visual representiation. Maps don’t do that, but flags do. And completely by chance, the Turkmen flag would be a better Powerpoint background than some I’ve seen…

This isn’t a frivolous point. Feel free to use images, not as pictures to be looked at, but as logos, clarifications, identifiers.

The class is Biology 101 for dummies (yes, the idiot teacher class, but please let’s not devote a whole 'nother thread to how much he sucks.) The assignment is, and I quote in full, “A 15 minute presentation for the class on any topic in biology. And use PowerPoint.”


Since I don’t give a rat’s ass about this class anymore (I’m not a bio major, but a prospective nursing student; this class is required for my application to nursing school), I’m simply recycling an old class I’ve taught before with some judicious edits. New Title: Volatile Hydrophobic Plant Compounds and Their Effects on the Naked Ape. Former Title: Magickal Aromatherapy. I’m taking out the woo, putting in a nifty picture of the amygdala, and cutting out about 45 minutes of fun hands-on labwork to bring it in just under 20 minutes.

But, seeing as 27 other students are also giving 15 minute presentations that day (I know, I know, even with our 6 hour day, that’s mathematically impossible), I’d like to do something that doesn’t suck for their sakes.

Thanks for your suggestions, everyone!

Okay, sorry I thought you were a bio major - poor reading comprehension of your other threads on my part! That is a very broad assignment, but it’s nice that it gave you room to use something you already have.

I guess my advice at that point would be to make sure your material is accessible to most people in the class - nothing is more boring that listening to someone talk about something that is going totally over your head! But, also, lots of people won’t listen anyway. Don’t take it personally!

You probably already knew that stuff, but hey, I got nothing else. :slight_smile:

I am in the midst of grading 60 student PowerPoints. The major problems are egregiously bad spelling and punctuation errors (up on the screen for everyone to marvel at), quotes and data presented in no particular order, putting too many words on a slide, paraphrasing material they don’t understand, empty bullet points (“Summary” with no information, for example), and simply not doing what I told them to do for each slide (e.g., Slide 1: The title followed by your names in alphabetical order). However, the overall problem with many of them is that the student has not outlined the talk before beginning to crank out slides. PowerPoint, like any other presentation format, is GIGO. All the pictures of Turkmenistan in Spring will do you no good if you have not told the audience why you are talking about Turkmenistan or why it might matter to anyone.

What other users said, especially **The Cocky Watchman ** and susan: focus on the story first.

Tell them what you are going to tell them.

Tell them.

Tell them what you told them.

And follow basic, simple formats for your slides.

Since you are presenting for about 15 minutes you should have no more than 5 or so slides, maybe 7…

Thank you Maastricht!

I have to teach a course in PowerPoint starting in two weeks.
I will use this clip in class. It covers almost everything I try to warn my students NOT to do.

The one thing he missed that really annoys me is the “I think you are all stupid” approach:

Slide 1: Think
Slide 2: Before
Slide 3: You
Slide 4: Do
Slide 5: Anything

and so on and so on…as if making one word slides will help the truly stupid in the audience understand better.

And then the same jerk will actually kill a forest of trees and give you a hard copy of the same tediously boring PP presentation to take home with you.

I have this “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” PP on my bulletin board.

Building on the idea that the a/v aids can and should be used to give information that just talking can not–If you’re discussing how essential oils are derived from plants, it might be nice to show some pictures of the process–the plants in the wild, the plants being processed, the final oil.

Then show lots of pictures of naked naked apes. At least no one will be bored. :wink:

Seth Godin has written the final word on PowerPoint. It supports and expounds on several of the posts already in this thread. PDF here.