Don’t Make PowerPoint Your Higher Power

(721 words)

PowerPoint and other presentation software are useful tools when they are used wisely.  They are less effective when the speaker views the slides as handouts or notes for the speaker.  Presentation software slides were never designed for those purposes; they are best used as images that support the inspirational message that you will speak.  You and your spoken message should always be the stars of the show.

Before preparing, determine whether or not PowerPoint would actually enhance your presentation.  If graphs, charts, or other visuals are not going to be very important, you may be more successful without PowerPoint.

If you do decide to use PowerPoint, remember that laptops, slides, projectors, and other visuals automatically create a degree of separation between you and your listeners and make your talk less personal.  Unless these tools are managed seamlessly, they can steal focus from you and diminish your authority as speaker.

Here are some tips for managing PowerPoint seamlessly, so that you, not PowerPoint, will take stage:

Use the “Ten-Twenty-Thirty” Rule:

For every twenty minutes that you speak, you should have no more than ten slides, and any slides with text should be printed at no smaller than thirty pitch.

Keep it simple!  Avoid swirling explosions of information and do not use sound effects.

Types of Slides:
  1. Graphics/Images (these should be the majority of your slides)
    • Diagrams, charts, photos, and funny drawings are good for PowerPoint slides.
    • Use a variety of resources for your images: com,, and (this one is from Google for free).  Try to find humorous “I-stock” photos to take the place of some information you want to communicate.
  2. Text Slides (The text slides should be as few as possible in your deck!)
    • One point per slide is a good idea. Use a maximum of 5 bullets per slide and a maximum of 5 words per bullet point.
    • Bullet points should introduce simple phrases; it should be your visual and vocal delivery that make those phrases come alive.
Top Ten Tips:  Manage PowerPoint seamlessly, so that YOU will take stage:
  1. Once you are in the position of power, allow the screen to be on your left or right: visible, but less prominent than you are (whenever possible).
  2. If you are the one who will change the slides, situate the laptop downstage of your body (closer to your audience) – and a bit to your left or right.  This allows you to maintain as much eye contact as possibly while you are using the keypad.  It also allows the audience to receive the fullest view of YOU.
  3. Draw attention to your slides as minimally as possible.  The more often you call attention to the slides, the more you communicate the notion that the audience should put more faith in images and written words than they should put in YOU.
  4. Never read aloud to the audience from your slides.  Instead, pass your eyes over the slide briefly before you speak to gather the info, then pause briefly to make genuine eye contact with your audience before you begin speaking.
  5. Do not put all of your expertise onto the slides!
  6. Remember that the way we speak is different from the way we write.  We write text for the reader’s eye, but we speak for the listener’s EAR.   Always speak naturally and conversationally, using words that are comfortable for your mouth and comfortable for the listener’s ears.
  7. Place black slides into the deck at spots where you plan to move close to the audience for dramatic effect.
  8. Allow the screen to go completely dark when you want to focus attention on yourself for a longer period of time.  Use the “B” key for this.
  9. Be sure that your final slide is an image slide:  this image should illustrate the inspirational closing that you will speak.
  10. Be the star of your show!  Do not support PowerPoint.  When you need it, allow PowerPoint to support YOU.

When you apply these techniques to your PowerPoint presentation, you will project your own, unique power.  You will enhance your image as an expert and your audience will quickly realize that they cannot afford to tune you out:  You’ll have them on the edge of their seats!

Copyright © 2013-2015 Maria Guida

Maria Guida  is an executive speaking coach/trainer, professional speaker, and Broadway actress.  With her experience on stage, TV and film (working with Paul Newman, James Earl Jones, and  Kevin Kline), she helps savvy executives in all industries enhance their credibility and generate business by speaking with poise, passion, and persuasive power.  Delighted clients include American Express, JPMorgan Chase, and Johnson & Johnson.  Maria travels extensively to deliver interactive and entertaining keynotes and workshops.  She can be reached at 718-884-2282 and; or visit

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