5 Tips For A Better PowerPoint Winning over an audience is one of the keys to delivering a good PowerPoint presentation. Unfortunately, it’s also possible to accomplish the opposite. Here are some tips that everyone using PowerPoint should know to keep an audience at a conference room table engaged. 1. Consider the timing of the presentation when putting together your slides
Your audience’s time should be in consideration as you compile slides. Few things appear more unprofessional than a presentation that starts late and ends even later. Start your presentation on schedule and end within a set timeframe. The best way to accomplish this is through practice. Rehearse in advance and time yourself so that you know how long each slide takes to get through. PowerPoint has a handy tool that enables you to track the amount of time. To use, click on the Rehearse Timings command on the Slide Show menu. You’ll be able to watch your time for each slide, as well as the overall PowerPoint presentation. Also, make sure that your equipment works and that you know how to use it. Don’t make an audience wait while you tinker with the projector. Ensure ample set-up time, just in case something goes wrong. 2. Don’t overwhelm slides with information.
Busy slides that are packed with lots of small text are extremely hard to read. Quite simply, audiences won’t. To build a better PowerPoint that’s streamlined and simple, keep slides trim, interactive and engaging, using large text and images that illustrate the main point of each. Use your notes and the spoken part of the presentation to deliver the details. Break up your slides if you have to. Having more slides that are easy to read will be more effective than just a few that are impossibly dense. 3. Explain everything.
Don’t assume that everyone is operating from a common base of knowledge. Take the time to define acronyms and abbreviations, as well as other complex topics, or risk losing your audience. 4. Repeat questions.
Unless you are in a very small presentation space, repeat every question posed to you. Others may have missed it or were unable to hear the question being asked. If the audience doesn’t know the question you are answering, your answer loses its value. 5. Keep the conversation flowing.
Avoid the following trap: Someone asks you a question, you answer, they counter with another question and the next thing you know, you have a back-and-forth dialogue with a specific member of the audience. Give people the opportunity to ask a question, and perhaps a follow-up. If the conversation goes beyond that, inform them that they can meet with you afterward for additional questions once your presentation is completed. Don’t let one person dominate the conversation or the other audience members will lose interest. Audience engagement is the key to creating a better PowerPoint presentation. Death by PowerPoint isn’t inevitable. By delivering streamlined information in a well-timed presentation and being prepared to answer questions and facilitate conversation appropriately, you can create a PowerPoint presentation that is memorable and impactful. Here’s a question for you: would you consider a presentation successful if the speaker went beyond the allotted time? It may have been a good presentation, but because of the delay, it caused you to be late for some other important appointment. My guess is, you’d say “no.” Because that would be my answer too. The truth is that timing in presentations should always be observed. If you want to know more, do continue reading this post as I give you 10 timing tips for successful presentations.

Timing Tips To Help You Succeed As A Presenter

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash I’m sure many of you have sat in presentations where the speaker rambled on and on, and seemingly forgot about the time. Or perhaps technical problems cropped up and inadvertently cut into the speaker’s allotted time. Some factors may be outside your control – no one should blame you for this. But knowing how to manage your time during your presentation will definitely help you win your audience over. So, here are 6 tips for better time management in presentations: Tip #1: Know your time limits One of the first things you need to determine is how long your presentation is going to run for. This is because a 10-minute presentation will need to be prepared differently than a 30-minute one. Generally, longer presentations need more preparation. If you fail to prepare accordingly, then you run the risk of running out of things to say! You can most likely ‘wing’ a 10-minute presentation, but not a lengthy one. (I don’t recommend winging any presentation no matter how short it is.) Tip #2: Presentation time vs talking time Your talking time is different from your presentation time. If your presentation is supposed to be for 30 minutes, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to talk for 30 minutes straight. Depending on the nature of your presentation, you may need to allocate 10 minutes for a Q&A session. To be on the safe side, you should check with the presentation organizers and see how many minutes should be allotted for questions. Tip #3: When is the actual presentation? This might seem common sense, but I’ve heard stories of presenters totally forgetting when their presentation date is! Or perhaps they knew all along, but totally underestimated the scope of the presentation topic. They thought they could spend a mere 5-6 hours for preparation, but it wasn’t enough. So, they end up with a basic copy-and-paste job. I find it very disrespectful when the speaker makes it painfully obvious they didn’t prepare for the ‘big day.’ Use Google Calendar to prepare for your presentation Create an event in your calendar to make sure you don’t forget. You can use a traditional calendar. But I personally find an online calendar like Google’s is better suited for the job. I’ve enabled Google Calendar to send me desktop and phone notifications, so I never miss an event. For instance, if you’ve got a presentation scheduled 2 weeks from now, you can add a daily reminder. In the screenshot below, you can see I’ve added “Presentation day!” as an event on June 28th. Since this is still a couple of weeks away, I wanted to get a daily reminder from June 16th until June 27th. So, I added another event and set up a custom daily reminder for these dates. Here’s an updated view of my calendar: As you can see above, I’ll get a notification every single day until the day of my presentation. I find a daily reminder can get really annoying which prods me into doing some actual work, just so I can finally turn off the pesky notifications! Try this method and see if this works for you! Tip #4: Figure out the number of slides needed Trying to determine the right amount of slides for a presentation is tricky. Ask one person and they may say 1 slide per minute. Another person may say 1 slide per 2 minutes. Ask Guy Kawasaki and he’ll tell you to follow the 10/20/30 rule – 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30-point font. All of them are right, but truly it depends on the nature of your presentation. Personally, I’d go for whatever feels right. You can gloss over some slides but spend 80% of your time on a couple of slides. This is where the next point comes into play. It shouldn’t technically matter how many slides you use as long as you make everything fit within your allotted time. Tip #5: Time your slides One of the best timing tips for successful presentations is to figure out how many minutes you’re going to spend on each slide. As I mentioned in the previous point, you don’t need to spend a uniform number of minutes per slide. Some slides may only take you a few seconds, others may take several minutes. As you go through each slide take note of how long each one is going to take. You can use your phone’s stopwatch app for this. Tap on the ‘lap’ button once you finish a slide. The idea is to have each lap correspond to one slide, so you can figure out how long each slide takes. So, if you have 50 slides, then you should record 50 laps on your mobile phone. It’s a pretty simple but effective way to time your slides. One trick to making sure you’re timing your slides properly is by delivering your presentation like you would on presentation day – by doing it verbally! This means practicing your entire speech and actually saying it out loud. If you just say the words in your head, then you could mistime your presentation. After all, we do read faster in our minds. The key to speaking, however, is by speaking normally. Don’t rush your speech just because “it’s just a rehearsal.” Speak like you would on presentation day. Another thing you need to consider is that when you actually deliver a verbal rehearsal, then you can also time your pauses. Every pause counts. In addition to helping you rest for a bit, you can also use pauses to emphasize certain points. The right pause can help build momentum and make the crowd sit on the very edge of their seats! Tip #6: Create a schedule Creating a schedule is especially important for lengthy presentations. Some presentations can last for hours. So, it’s best to pace yourself and your slides so you don’t run out of things to say during the second half of your presentation! Let’s say you need to give a 2-hour presentation. Depending on the subject, you may feel like 2 hours isn’t going to do the topic justice, or you may think the opposite. That is, you don’t know enough to flesh out the content and 2 hours is far, far too long! Whatever the case may be, you can certainly benefit from scheduling your presentation. First off, you need to do your research on the topic so you can create sub-categories or sub-topics. Then you can say Part I of the presentation should be about sub-topic A. Part II is for sub-topic B, and so on. If you’ve got 120 minutes for your presentation, then you can divide that time with the number of sub-topics. So, if you’ve got 4 parts or 4 sub-topics, you can schedule your presentation as follows: First part: Sub-topic A (30 minutes) Second part: Sub-topic B (30 minutes) Third part: Sub-topic C (30 minutes) Fourth part: Sub-topic D (30 minutes) The best thing is you don’t need to allocate equal minutes to each part. If you think Sub-topic A needs more time than Sub-topic B, then you can add more minutes to Sub-topic A. You’re free to schedule your presentation as you like. The point is that you can better organize and time your presentation using this system. Tip #7: Always have a Plan B Even the best laid plans can go awry. No matter how well-prepared you are, there are external factors beyond your control. For example, you may suddenly find yourself with more or less time than initially assigned for your talk. The previous speaker may have gotten carried away and used up 10 or 15 minutes of your timeslot. So, now you’ve got less time to spend on your presentation. You’ve prepared for a 30-minute speech, and all of a sudden the organizer tells you that you unfortunately have only 20 minutes for your slot. You’d probably feel a bit of relief if you didn’t come well prepared, but if you did, you’d be upset. So what do you do now? Well, this is why it’s important to always have a Plan B when it comes to presentations. If push comes to shove and your worst fears are realized, then you should know that it’s not the end of the world. Here’s how you can prepare for the worst case scenarios: Put the most important information upfront If you’re a fan of saving the best for last, then you may not like this advice. However, if you want a Plan B, then you should definitely consider putting the most important information at the beginning of your presentation. This way, if your time gets shortened, then you’ve shared what you came to say. Send an email with missed points Some things in life are unavoidable. Your presentation’s cut short. You’ve got a lot more important details you’re not able to share with your audience. In cases like these, you can tell them you’ll send an email summary of your presentation which includes the missed points. Your audience will greatly appreciate your initiative. Just make sure you don’t tell them before or during your speech. Otherwise, they may stop listening to you. Instead, tell them about the email once you wrap up your – shortened – presentation. Have a handout ready Not all presentations can benefit from a handout, but if you think your audience needs one, then you should definitely prepare one. It becomes even more important in Plan B scenarios. Instead of panicking about your lack of time, you can go about doing your presentation as usual (remember to put the most important info at the beginning). Then you can ask the audience to check the handout to read up on the rest of the presentation. Tip #8: Pick mid-morning slot for best results According to this article, the best time to do a PowerPoint presentation is mid-morning, that’s around 10am. This is when people are supposed to be at their sharpest and would be more likely to listen and retain the information they receive. Too early in the morning and you’d probably get people dozing off in the meeting. Afternoon presentations aren’t so hot either as people’s minds tend to wander to what they’re going to do later on in the day. But of course, this is not set in stone. You, as the presenter, know your audience best. For people who work a normal shift, that is, 8am to 5pm, 10am is a great time for presentations. However, if your audience mainly works on the night shift, then obviously, 10am is a bad idea. The point is that you need to choose a time that will work best with your audience. For regular folks, that usually falls around the 10am mark. Tip #9: Use an onstage timer Going beyond your allotted presentation time can lead to people getting restless. You may also annoy the next presenter because you’re cutting into his presentation minutes. This is why you must always be aware of how much time you have left. But, and there’s always a but, don’t make it obvious that you’re looking at the time. If you’re sitting in the audience, how would you feel if the presenter blatantly looks at his watch during the presentation? You’d probably feel like the presentation is rushed, or worse, you’d feel disrespected. Here’s a video of former US president, George W Bush, looking down at his watch during a debate. It’s not exactly a presentation per se, but the same rules still apply. Now, tell me, how would you feel if you were in the audience? If there’s no clock at the back of the room, don’t panic. I’m sure you’ve got a smartphone on your person at all times. Whether you use an iPhone or an Android device, you’ll find a speech timer that you can use to help keep you on track. For iPhone users, SpeakerClock and Toastmaster Timer are two apps worth looking into. For Android users, Speech Timer and Toastmasters Timer seem like good choices. Tip #10: Spend most of your time preparing your content and practicing your speech, NOT designing slides Yes, that’s right. You don’t need to spend several hours designing your slides. In fact, you shouldn’t even want to, in the first place. That’s what templates are for! Whether you’re using PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides or any other presentation software for that matter, you can use our free PowerPoint templates for your needs! Check out this screenshot of Business Roadmap, a professionally-designed and 100% free template from 24Slides:

Did These 10 Timing Tips For Successful Presentations Help You Out?

I sure hope you learned something new in this article. Following a strict timing schedule during rehearsal and your actual presentation are two keys to being a successful speaker. You’ll not only position yourself as an expert presenter who provides tons of value to the audience, but also as someone who respects people’s time.

You might also find this interesting: How To Design A Professional Presentation That Will Amaze Your Audience

As accounting and finance professionals, we are ­frequently called on to present data and information to facilitate strategic decision making. These presentations must effectively tell a story that convinces others to take appropriate action. Since the presentation slides are an important tool in telling the story, we must give due care to their design and preparation. When trying to present a lot of vital information, one of the easiest mistakes to make is to create slides that are nothing but bullet points and large blocks of text. Your slides shouldn’t read like a transcript of your presentation. If they do, you can cancel the face-to-face meeting and simply send the presentation deck to the expected attendees so they can read the slides at their convenience and get all the content they need. Your slides should be a visual aid to your presentation—with heavy emphasis on visual. People can process visuals faster than they can process text, so your audience will be better able to concentrate on understanding what you’re saying when they aren’t reading along with (or, more likely, ahead of) you as you speak. Here are 10 tips to help you move away from text-heavy slides and harness the power of the visual aid to tell your story and give a more impactful, informative presentation.


There are a number of rules of thumb that people use for determining how many slides should be used in a presentation of a given length, such as “No more than one slide per minute” or “10 slides for a 20-minute presentation using 30-point font.” Forget these and any other rules you may have heard. Slides are free, so don’t worry about the number of slides in the presentation deck. What you need to concentrate on is preparing effective slides that contain only one idea. You won’t save any presenting time by cramming three ideas on a single slide rather than doing one separate slide for each idea. But while your slide count will increase, it’s likely that your effectiveness in communicating those ideas will also increase because your audience will be focused on the one, single idea rather than juggling three different ideas at a time.


You’ve probably heard that a slide should have no more than six bullet points with no more than six words on each point. The problem with those slides is that your audience will be reading your slides while you’re talking, and they can’t concentrate on what you’re saying if they’re reading. They also will read faster than you can talk, so they will have to sit and wait while you finish saying what they have already read. Consider converting the text to a graphical format as shown in Figure 1. PowerPoint Smart Art provides several options for changing bulleted lists to graphical displays. Notice that the slide on the right contains the same words as the bulleted list, but it’s much more visually appealing. To prevent your audience from reading ahead, add an animation to the slide so that each point appears as you begin talking about it, helping your audience focus only on that particular point.


It has long been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so convert your bulleted lists to pictures. In Figure 2, adding the image of the map brings the words to life. You can also add slide animations so that each text box and the related color-coded arrow appears on the map as you discuss that specific option. The picture helps the audience understand the concept much faster than just printed or spoken words. Since research shows that people remember pictures better than words, following this tip also should help your audience remember your content after the presentation. Being able to use pictures to help tell your story or present your argument in this manner is quickly becoming a particularly important skill for accounting and finance professionals, who are increasingly being expected to use visualizations in the era of Big Data.


It’s easy to open PowerPoint and select a stock template. But after a while, everyone recognizes the template and it can start to feel “old’ or “tired.” You can capture your audience’s attention by designing a custom template. It doesn’t have to be fancy—just something different. Another option is to consult with your company’s marketing and branding department to see if there’s a corporate-specific template available. Consider the title slides in Figure 3. The slide on the left is a generic template. It does nothing to generate interest and grab the audience. The slide on the right, however, is a custom template based on the topic of the presentation. The bat, ball, glove, and grass picture can be repeated at the bottom of each slide, or you could find a related picture or graphical elements to use on the content slides.


For those of us in the accounting and finance realm, charts and figures will likely be major components of our presentations. With a few mouse clicks, you can generate nice graphs in programs like Microsoft Excel. While they’re helpful in displaying data, using them effectively in a presentation will require some adjustments to the standard output. Identify the most important information in the graph and make it stand out in some way. Consider the first set of slides in Figure 4. Audience members aren’t going to sit at a presentation and try to read all the data points on the line chart in the left-hand slide. (And if they try, that means they won’t be paying attention to you speaking.) Now look at the slide on the right. Unnecessary grid lines were removed, other lines were lightened, and the data labels were reformatted. The result is much easier to read. In the second set of slides, the chart is being included to highlight the performance of the Custom line. Notice how your eye is drawn immediately to the relevant line in the right-hand slide. All it took was increasing the size of the line and adjusting the colors of the chart. Also avoid the temptation to use 3D-style charts. They present a distorted view of the data. Consider the 3D bar chart at the left of Figure 5. It’s almost impossible to determine the correct height of the bars. Should you look at the front or the back of the bar to determine the height? And look at the Standard bar for 2014. In the 3D chart, the value appears to be less than 4. When you convert it to a 2D chart, however, the value is clearly greater than 4. Pie charts have the same issue. In the second set of graphs in Figure 5, Regions 1, 3, and 5 are all the same value (10%). In the 3D pie chart, however, Region 3 looks quite a bit larger than 1 and 5.


Let’s face it, while a plain white background may be appropriate in some circumstances, the result looks very plain. Consider using an image as your slide background instead. When using a picture, however, you need to make sure there is enough contrast between the background and the information presented on the slide. Make sure the text is still readable and will stand out. This might require adding a semi-transparent shape behind the text to increase the contrast while still letting the picture show through, as shown in Figure 6. While it may be tempting to use the first picture that appears in a Google search, you must be aware of copyright issues. Look for pictures that are shared under a Creative Commons license (www.creativecommons.org) or that are in the public domain. And as with any work, provide appropriate citations when required.


White space, also called negative space, is the space between the various elements on your slide, including the slide margins. Notice the little bits of space added between the bars in Figure 6. Adding that extra bit of white space makes the chart appear less crowded and more readable.


When looking for a picture to use on a slide, most of us choose one without giving its composition a second thought. Even though the photographer took it a certain way, that doesn’t mean we have to use it that way. Sometimes the picture becomes more effective after it’s resized and cropped. Notice in Figure 7 how the original picture on the left, which puts the whale in the center of the slide and doesn’t fill the slide, has been enlarged to cover the slide and then repositioned and cropped. The result is a background picture that provides more visual interest, greater focus on the whale as the picture’s subject, and more space in the upper-left to add text. One trick to help maintain a consistent feel within a slide deck is to recolor the pictures to a single color palate. In Figure 8, PowerPoint’s Colortool was used to match a color palette by adding a green tint to a full-color picture. Other recoloring options include adjusting the color saturation and color tone to alter the color vibrancy.


First articulated by John Thomas Smith in 1797, the rule of thirds is a guideline used by painters, photographers, and cinematographers to frame a visual image in a way to generate compositional energy and interest. Basically, this rule divides the design canvas into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. Rather than positioning the important visual elements in the center of the canvas, these elements are placed on or near one of the “third” lines or at their intersections. Notice in Figure 9 how the people are in the lower-right-hand side of the frame rather than centered in the photo. This makes it more dynamic than if the people were right in the center. If a picture you want to use doesn’t follow this rule, resize it and position it on your slide so that it does. The two slides in Figure 7 are an example of using this trick to make a picture more visually appealing. As you adjust the image to make it more effective—whether you’re cropping or resizing it, changing its colors, or applying the rule of thirds—remember to keep in mind how the text and other elements will appear on top of the image. You don’t want the photo to draw attention away from the ideas you’re presenting or make it too difficult for the audience to read.


Most of us have a tendency to put too many words on a slide. Perhaps it’s because we think that having the words on the slide will help our audience remember what we’re saying. But research actually shows that people will remember more of what we say in a presentation when the words aren’t on the slide. Removing the words also will eliminate the temptation to read the slide to the audience. In the set of slides presented in Figure 10, much of the initial text has been eliminated to create a simple pictorial slide. The eliminated text will be shared with the audience through the spoken presentation. If you believe it’s necessary to provide the extra words or a transcript of the presentation to the audience, prepare a handout to distribute at the end of the presentation.


Applying these 10 tips will get you started in creating more visually engaging presentations, but don’t stop there. Presenting information is a critical skill for accounting and finance professionals, so you always need to be on the lookout for ways to improve. A good way to begin to master a more visual slide design approach is to look at what others are doing. When you see an effective slide design that speaks to you, file it away for later use. Think of it as curating your own “Pinterest” board of good slide designs. To get started, I recommend that you check out three books that have helped me make the switch to more visual slide design. Garr Reynolds, a pioneer in this movement, has written two books that provide many examples of redesign efforts: Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery and Presentation Zen DESIGN: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations. Nancy Duarte, founder of leading presentation development company Duarte, Inc., details her approach in slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations. It may take a little more time and creativity to implement these tips, but with practice they will become second nature. Then your audience will thank you for saving them from “death by PowerPoint.” Charles E. Davis, Ph.D., CMA, CPA, is a professor of accounting in the Department of Graduate Business Programs at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He is also a member of IMA. You can contact Charles at (864) 294-3314 or [email protected] You may also like

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