Fix Your Presentations: 21 Quick Tips

Drowning in a PowerPoint swamp? Use these easy tricks to make your presentations more compelling & persuasive.
Most business presentations range from incredibly boring to, well … just plain boring. I’m sure you have a few offenders within your own team.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though.

Here are 21 ways to make certain that your presentations hold your audience’s interest–and help them make the decision you want them to make.


  • Build a story. Presentations are boring when they present scads of information without any context or meaning. Instead, tell a story, with the audience as the main characters (and, specifically, the heroes).
  • Keep it relevant. Audiences only pay attention to stories and ideas that are immediately relevant. Consider what decision you want them to make, then build an appropriate case.
  • Cut your intro. A verbose introduction that describes you, your firm, your topic, how you got there, only bores people. Keep your intro down to a sentence or two, even for a long presentation.
  • Begin with an eye-opener. Kick off your talk by revealing a shocking fact, a surprising insight, or a unique perspective that naturally leads into your message and the decision you want made.
  • Keep it short and sweet. When was the last time you heard someone complain that a presentation was too short? Make it half as long as you originally thought it should be (or even shorter).
  • Use facts, not generalities. Fuzzy concepts reflect fuzzy thinking. Buttress your argument, story and message with facts that are quantifiable, verifiable, memorable and dramatic.
  • Customize for every audience. One-size-fits-all presentations are like one-size-fits-all clothes; they never fit right and usually make you look bad. Every audience is different; your presentation should be too.
  • Simplify your graphics. People shut off their brains when confronted with complicated drawings and tables. Use very simple graphics and highlight the data points that are important.
  • Keep backgrounds in the background. Fancy slide backgrounds only make it more difficult for the audience to focus on what’s important. Use a simple, single color, neutral color background.
  • Use readable fonts. Don’t try to give your audience to get an eyestrain headache by using tiny fonts. Use large fonts in simple faces (like Arial); avoid boldface, italics and ALL-CAPS.
  • Don’t get too fancy. You want your audience to remember your message, not how many special effects and visual gimcracks you used. In almost all cases, the simpler the better.


Now send a link to this column to all your colleagues. Maybe the worst offenders will take the hint.

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Geoffrey James is an award-winning journalist who has written hundreds of articles on sales and marketing, and has helped thousands of sales professionals communicate more effectively with customers. James’ latest book is How to Say It: Business to Business Selling@Sales_Source
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