Graduate Management News

March 2016

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

Make it Happen: Our Top PowerPoint Presentation Tips to Make You Look Good

Consider these five tips for using PowerPoint as it was intended – to help you deliver engaging and visually striking presentations.

Professional Development Tips

We’ve all been there. You sit down, your presenter cues up the PowerPoint presentation, and at the bottom of the first slide you see: Slide 1 of 60. “Ugh!” You’re in the front row and there’s no escape! It's no fun being on the receiving end of a bad PowerPoint presentation, so don’t be the one who delivers a bad one, either. Consider these five tips to help you use PowerPoint as it was intended – to help you communicate in an engaging and visually striking manner.

  1. Know what you want to say before assembling your presentation. The purpose of your presentation is to illustrate and highlight what you are going to say to your audience. If you know beforehand what you want to say, then you can use PowerPoint to help visualize your main ideas. Script out your presentation before assembling the slides and use good storytelling conventions: have a beginning, middle, and end, and build toward a larger point. Your audience will appreciate it.

  2.  Avoid bells and whistles. Try not to fall in love with the technology available to you. Making transitions, sound effects and stock clip art the focus of your presentation distracts the audience and diminishes your message. These gimmicks rarely enhance the message you’re trying to make, and quite often slow down your presentation. 

  3. Use text sparingly. Your presentation is not a document! Your presentation is for enhancing your presentation and reinforcing what you’re saying as you give your presentation. PowerPoint is great for getting your ideas across graphically or for providing an overview. PowerPoint is not ideal for large blocks of copy and reading. Avoid paragraphs and use key words and phrases to make your points. Your audience will able to digest and retain key points more easily. 

  4. Design for clarity. Related to “bells and whistles,” PowerPoint ships with many templates, visual gimmicks, and snazzy transitions. Follow these tips
    • Use clean fonts that are easy to read on screen
    • Make sure your presentations are high contrast by using dark text on a light background
    • Avoid clutter
    • Align text left or right, as centered text is harder to read 
    • Use images sparingly

  5. Rehearse. Remember, your presentation is just that – a presentation, and not an opportunity for you to read a document. Practicing your presentation will allow you to become comfortable with the material, and listen to, interact with, and react to your audience. Relatedly, distribute any handouts after your presentation. Your job is to engage your audience. If you distribute materials before your presentation, your audience will read them rather than listen to you. 
With any PowerPoint presentation, a little goes a long way. Keep yours simple and remember: You are the presenter, not your slide show!