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3 Strategies to Make a Great PowerPoint

3 Strategies to Make a Great PowerPoint

How to make a good presentation into a great presentation

If you’re asking the internet for advice, there’s rarely a shortage. And if you’re looking for quality presentation advice, there are more lists and tips for presenting than you could ever try.

We love reading about different rules and ideas for how to make a good presentation, but as people who create a lot of presentations, what we’ve found most remarkable about a typical presentation we do is how atypical they really are.

You see, the problem with so many of these guides is that they try to help you jazz up your slides, or tweak your language, when what you really need is a different approach to building your presentation.

So instead of telling you how to revise your presentations to be stronger, we encourage you to reframe how you approach creating them in the first place. With a little practice, these concepts will become second nature, and you’ll see the difference on the faces of every audience you meet.

Strategy #1: Write for your real audience, not your ideal one

There are rules that say you should never treat your PowerPoint like a book to be read from. We love this sentiment. LOVE. In a perfect world, every presentation we send out the door would tell a beautiful visual story for the presenter to voice over confidently.

The reality is, there are far too many exceptions to this rule.

Oftentimes we are tasked with creating collateral that must function both as an in-person pitch presentation and a leave behind document, where certain key stakeholders may not have the benefit of a voiceover while they are reviewing critical details.

So we find it best to begin by asking who will be viewing this presentation, and how will they be viewing it? Considering the needs of your client at this level is the first step towards making a great presentation, whether it is a beautifully airy CEO keynote or a detailed RFP vying for business.

Strategy #2: Let content be your guide

We’ve found plenty of handy rules out there that can help you make a good PowerPoint. The 7x7 rule, the 10/20/30 rule, and the 5/5/5 rule can all be handy at times, but their rigid structure can often be too inflexible. Because, despite your best intentions, some presentations simply cannot be 10 slides long.

 But if you want to make a great PowerPoint, we find it better to ask the content to tell you the right format. A sentence? A list? A picture? An infographic? If you listen, your content will tell you how it wants its story told.

And sometimes it’s easy to get hung up on slide count when it truly doesn’t matter that much.

We have a nearly universal rule that we adhere to, whenever possible — one idea per slide. If your deck has to communicate a breadth of ideas and information, space out your ideas so your audience can absorb them, even if that means using more slides. Conversely, if you know your content better than anyone, there might be a time to buck conventions and put everything into a more densely packed slide.

Strategy #3: Find your flow

A good presentation tells a story. This is no different than a novel, movie or a particularly moving song. They all have their beats – ups, downs, big reveals and thoughtful pauses. Presentations are no different.

That’s why our third surefire strategy is to consider how your presentation flows.

Once your slides are nicely designed, you should take a look at how it flows as a whole. We like to do this using slide sorter mode in PowerPoint, but we’ve also taped many printed slides to meeting room walls in our day.

Are the slides balanced? Are there moments that punctuate the flow and give it interest? Does it scan in an interesting way? Using colored backgrounds or full-bleed photography are just a couple of simple ways you can pepper dynamic moments into a presentation and keep your audience engaged until the Q&A.

We know how difficult creating a presentation can be, and we also know there’s a lot of advice out there. But don’t get overwhelmed by all the options, or feel like your presentation will flop if you don’t follow a certain formula.

Just take a step back, look at your presentation as a whole, and let these 3 strategies guide you. Because simply asking yourself to think about your audience, your content, and your presentation as a whole will put you on the path to PowerPoint success.


We are big believers in the effectiveness of slide storytelling, whether that’s visual storytelling or in your content, so we wanted to add a few more things to help you start using it in your next PowerPoint.

Bonus Strategy #1: Start with your story

Often, people will know part of the information they want to include in their presentation before they start. They might be pulling in slides from a previous PowerPoint, or just know which data and details they want to include.

That means they are often working backwards when it comes to slide storytelling.

Instead of rewriting headlines or trying to make what’s on there fit your flow, start with a blank presentation and write out your headlines first.

Focus on headlines that show the benefit to your audience, and build out the story flow at a high level.

Then, you can go back and find where to fit your essential points. This way, you can make sure you are telling a strong and cohesive story without sacrificing any of the content you need to include.

Bonus Strategy #2: Sort for better stories

Our next slide storytelling strategy is simple: use the slide sorter. The slide sorter is the little grid icon at the bottom of your PowerPoint window, and it lets you see your presentation as a whole, rather than scrolling up and down in the sidebar.

This works particularly well with our previous tip about building the story flow first, as it lets you read the top level headlines as a whole.

But it also helps you with visual storytelling. When you see your presentation together, you might notice things you’d otherwise miss, like repetitive designs, inconsistent layouts, or just a lack of visual polish.

That means you can go back and add things like distinct designs for certain types of slides (think infographics or quote call-outs), consistent dividers, or other recurring elements that tie together the visual parts of slide storytelling.

Bonus Strategy #3: Think visual first

Depending on your format (in-person, online, or leave behind), you can dial up or down the amount of content on your slides. But no matter how you are presenting, you will benefit from taking a visual-forward approach to your slides.

That can mean a few things. In general, you can get great results by reducing the amount of total content on your slides. A great test for this is to keep things to one idea per slide. If you are covering more than one main idea, then you can break it into multiple slides. Just by breaking a busy slide up will make the content feel less overwhelming to the audience.

You can also use visuals to support the content that you do keep on your slides. Infographics and data visualization, for example, can help you say many things with a few simple visuals. Icons or similar visual elements can add nuance to your content. A great photo can bring a new dimension to your content, while also taking the place of longer written content.

But be careful! Too many visuals can be just as distracting as too many words. Make sure each of your visual elements is intentional and contributes something essential to your story. If it’s not necessary, remove it from your slides.

Have more questions about how to make a great presentation?

We have tons more advice on almost every aspect of presenting, all just waiting to help you wow your next audience. Check out our blog library for more presentation tips, or contact us to learn how we can help your business grow.

Have a favorite PowerPoint strategy you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about it!

Better presentations mean better business

Update (02/24): we’ve revised this article to add some new tips for improving presentations

Looking for more information about PowerPoint presentations and beyond? Check out our resources for expert advice and tested strategies.

About the author

Kyle Kartz is the Creative Director of Storytelling at VerdanaBold. He is an expert copywriter and strategist, with experience driving major campaigns for global brands in multiple industries. He is passionate about communications, the outdoors, and cooking.



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