Tips for Creating a More Effective Presentation

By Heather Baldwin
If a presentation were a meal, would your PowerPoint slides be the appetizer, the main course or the dessert? According to TJ Walker, president of Media Training Worldwide and author of How to Create More Effective PowerPoint Presentations, a booklet in his Master Communicator series, most people consider their slides to be the main course – and spend a corresponding amount of time preparing them. Yet properly viewed, PowerPoint slides are the dessert to your presentation, says Walker. “Everyone likes dessert, but you can have a good meal without one,” he explains. “No chef who wants to stay in business spends 10 times as much time, money and resources preparing dessert over the main course.” His message: You and your spoken words are the main course and should get the bulk of your attention during preparation. Here are some more tips from Walker to help you become a more effective PowerPoint presenter.
  • Skilled presenters often prepare two different versions of their PowerPoint slides – a long one loaded with data, graphs, charts and text; and a streamlined, shorter version that is projected to the audience during the presentation. The shorter version should capture your main ideas and keep things short, simple and to the point so audience members clearly understand your message. Use the slides from the longer version to help you answer any detailed questions audience members might raise, or print it out and give it to your audience after the presentation so they can drill down to the numbers on their own.


  • Your message should be simplified so your audience “does not have to do a lot of thinking or connecting of dots while you are speaking,” says Walker. Complex slides are your enemy – get rid of them. Not sure if a slide is too complex? Give it Walker’s five-second test. That is, look at it for five seconds, then turn away and try to describe it. “If you can’t remember every important detail, then why should anybody else be able to?” says Walker. “If you can’t remember your images, you are not communicating, you are just wasting time.”

  • When it comes to slide count, less is more. The fewer slides you use in your presentation, the better. Regardless of how great a presenter you are, if you’re cramming 50 slides into a 15-minute presentation, you’re going to overwhelm your audience members – they’ll likely remember nothing about your presentation except the sheer mass of slides. Walker says it is unlikely you ever will need to use more than 10 slides in a single presentation. Stunned? Try this exercise. Go slide by slide through your presentation and ask yourself: What is the worst thing that would happen if I leave this slide out of my presentation?” “If the answer is, not much, then you know you can leave it out. Unless a slide truly brings to life your message, it is not needed,” says Walker. “This means you safely can eliminate slides that contain nothing but words. If you are capable of saying words, then you don’t need to have them written on a screen.”

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