Can I have some tips on how to improve my PowerPoint presentation?

Effective or “high value” PowerPoint presentations take some planning and work. Here are some tips (by no means comprehensive) on how you can improve your PowerPoint presentation,1-4 divided into 4 stages:

Stage I: Planning for your talk

    • “Know your stuff”
    • Prioritize the main objectives of your talk given time  constraints ie, “What would you like your audience to really take away from your talk?”
    • Accept the fact that you will not be able to cover all that you know about the topic during the allotted time
    • Think about how you might keep your audience engaged throughout your talk as you introduce topics and concepts!

Stage II: Preparing your slides

  1. General rules
    • Keep them simple (“Less is more”)
      • Minimize number of slides eg, average no more than 1 slide/min
      • Minimize number of concepts/slide eg,1/slide
      • Minimize clutter 
    • Avoid “apologetic” slides ie, if not easily readable or visible or “too busy”, don’t use them!
    • Practice, practice, practice and edit as needed
  2.  Text
    • Minimize number of words/slide eg, 6×6 rule, maximum 6 words/line, 6 lines/slide
    • Use easily readable font types and sizes
      1. Minimum 24 for small rooms
      2. Minimum 36 for larger rooms
      3. If not readable 10 feet away from monitor, don’t include
    • Check spelling!
    • Choose high contrast colors between background and text eg, black text on white, yellow on dark blue background, not red on green
  3. Tables
    • Avoid reproduction of large tables with tons of data that cannot be read or can easily overwhelm the audience
    • If you use large tables, zero in on a particular section and display a magnified version of that section so that the audience can follow along with you

Stage III: Presenting your talk

  • Remember, you are the presenter, not PowerPoint
  • Engage the audience from the beginning to the end
    • Beginning: Use a “hook” ie, why should the audience be interested in your talk?
    • During
      • Maintain eye contact with the audience
      • Be dynamic/animate
      • Use speech intonations as if you are having a conversation with the audience
      • Do not read slides word-by-word
    • End: Highlight your take-home points eg, “if you don’t remember anything else…”

Stage IV: Post-Presentation

  • Ask for feedback from colleagues, audience, coordinators, etc… 
  • Self-reflect ie, what went well, what didn’t go so well?
  • Apply lessons learned to your next PowerPoint presentation!

Five take-home points for this pearl

  • Less is more, keep your presentation clear and simple
  • Time is limited; prioritize your message
  • Keep your audience engaged throughout the talk
  • Conclude with take-home points
  • Practice, practice, practice

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that people generally remember 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, and 50% of what they see and hear? 2

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  1. Collins J, et al. Evaluation of speakers at a national radiology continuing medical education course. Med Educ Online 2002;7:17 
  2. Collins J. Education techniques for lifelong learning. RadioGraphics 2004;24:1177-83. 
  3. Harolds JA. Tips for giving a memorable presentation, Part IV. Using and composing PowerPoint slides. Current Nuclear Medicine 2012;37:977-80. 
  4. Grech V. WASP (write a scientific paper):Optimization of PowerPoint presentations and skills. Early Human Development 2018;125:53-56. 

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Can I have some tips on how to improve my PowerPoint presentation?