Tips for a Successful Presentation

“Public speaking is the art of diluting a two-minute idea with a two-hour vocabulary.”
-John Fitzgerald “Jack” Kennedy-

STORIES, ANALOGIES AND EXAMPLES can often be the difference between a good presentation and a great one. Examples and stories help technical information to "come alive" for an audience and most scientific presentations can benefit from including an example or story.

10-20-30 RULE

This rule states that a powerpoint slide should have no more than 10 slides, last no longer than 20 minutes and have no text less than 30 point font. It doesn’t matter whether your idea will revolutionize the world, you need to spell out the important nuggets in a few minutes minutes, a couple slides and a several words a slide.

20-20 Rule – Another suggestion for slideshows. This one says that you should have twenty slides each lasting exactly twenty seconds. The 20-20 Rule forces you to be concise and to keep from boring people.

Keep your sentences short, about 10-20 words each is ideal. This is the way people usually talk.


Usually your visuals are posters, charts, or even a PowerPoint presentation. Whatever your visuals may be, keep them simple and don’t put too many words on them. The audience isn’t there to read your slides, they are there to listen to you present.


The best ones are short, memorable and applicable:

(Quote) Upset one customer and they will tell ten people. Do an outstanding job and you will be lucky to get three recommendations.

(Quote) 30% of advertising works – the problem is that nobody knows what what 30%!!

(Quote) If you do what you always did , you will get what you always got!

(Quote) 0.5% of people will only buy the most expensive, 13% of people will only buy the cheapest. The main market is “Value for Money”!!


Metaphors and analogies are vital presentation skills to develop. ‘It’s like climbing a greasy pole’, for example, conveys far more than just literal meaning. It conveys image and feeling and enables others to empathise through similar experiences of their own. And remember the light bulbs – if they’re not lighting up try a different metaphor.


Research has shown that most of a message is delivered through nonverbal means

7 % is conveyed by actual words or content

38% is transmitted by tone of voice and volume of speech

55% is delivered via non-verbal information, such as facial expressions, posture, hand gestures, and how you carry yourself


Breathe In Not Out – Feeling the urge to use presentation killers like ‘um,’ ‘ah,’ or ‘you know’? Replace those with a pause taking a short breath in. The pause may seem a bit awkward, but the audience will barely notice it.


Concisely summarize your key concepts and the main ideas of your presentation.

Resist the temptation to add a few last impromptu words.

End your talk with the summary statement or question you have prepared. What do you want them to do? What do you want them to remember?


Always leave time for a few questions at the end of the talk. If you allow questions during the talk, the presentation time will be about 25% more than the practice time. You can jump directly to a slide by typing its number or by right-clicking during the presentation and choosing from the slide titles.

Relax. If you’ve done the research you can easily answer most questions.

Always repeat questions, so everyone can hear; it provides an opportunity to clear up any miscommunication.

Some questions are too specific or personal. Politely refuse to answer.

If you can’t answer a question, say so. Don’t apologize. “I don’t have that information. I’ll try to find out for you.”


This is a common mistake – people want to end with a punch. But as I just pointed out, the “aha!” moment really belongs at the beginning. The catchphrase, elevator pitch, 30 second story on what you do and why I should care belongs at the beginning, but too often people leave this until the end when most people have stopped paying attention.


You should look and sound:






Maintain good eye contact. Find a person in the audience and establish eye contact. Only talk when you’re looking at someone. Maintain frequent eye contact with the entire audience; work the whole room, but don’t do it mechanic never turn your back on them.


(1)    Don’t overload your slides with too much text or data.

(2)    FOCUS. In general, using a few powerful slides is the aim.

(3)    Let the picture or graphic tell the story. Avoid text.

(4)    Type key words in the PowerPoint Notes area listing what to say when displaying the          slide.

(5)    Number your slides and give them a title.

(6)    Proof read everything, including visuals and numbers.

(7)    Keep “like”topics together.

(8)    Use the PowerPoint Notes to remind yourself what to say when a certain slide is being          shown.

(9)    Prepare a Table of Contents slide with the “Summary Slide” feature.

(10)  Include a slide that shows your company logo.

(11)  Try to make the length of text lines similar throughout the slide.

(12)  Use dark font over light background and light font over dark background to enhance          clarity.

(13)  Use graphics only when appropriate.

(14)  Recommended font for slide title is San Serif, and font size should be 44. Font size for         subtitles should be 28 to 34, with bold font.


(1)    Font size must be large enough to be easily read. It is distracting if you use too wide a variety of fonts.

(2)    Overuse of text is a common mistake.

(3)    Too much text makes the slide unreadable. You may just as well show a blank slide. Stick to a few key words.

(4)    If your audience is reading the slides they are not paying attention to you. If possible, make your point with graphics instead of text.

(5)    You can use Word Art, or a clip art image of a sign, to convey text in a more interesting way.
(6)    Use bullets and numbers to organise ideas in lists.

(7)    Use outlines and don’t copy exactly what you plan to say on the slides.

(8)    No more than 5 lines per frame; no more than 6 words per line.

(9)    Use the same verb tenses, same voice for verbs, same cases and same number (singular or plural).

(10)   Avoid hyphenation as it interrupts the continuity of the message.

(11)   Proof read carefully! Errors give the audience the impression you don’t care much about them or the material you are presenting.

(12)   If possible, have someone else proof read for you. If you have made a mistake you are likely to make the same mistake if you read it yourself.

(13)   No more than 5 lines per frame; no more than 6 words per line.

(14)   End your presentation with a closing message that you want the audience to remember.


Numbers are usually confusing to the audience. Use as few as possible and allow extra time for the audience to do the math.

(1)    Numbers should never be ultra precise: “Anticipated Revenues of $660,101.83″ looks silly. Are your numbers that accurate? Just say $660 thousand. “The Break Even Point is 1048.17 units.” Are you selling fractions of a unit?

(2)    Don’t show pennies. Cost per unit is about the only time you would need to show pennies.

(3)    If you have more than 12-15 numbers on a slide, that’s probably too many

(4)    Using only one number per sentence helps the audience absorb the data.

(5)    Use the same scale for numbers on a slide. Don’t compare thousands to millions.

(6)    When using sales data, stick to a single market in the presentation. Worldwide sales, domestic sales, industry sales, company sales, divisional sales, or sales to a specific market segment are all different scales. They should not be mixed.



(1)    Keep the background consistent and subtle.
(2)    Use only enough text when using charts or graphs to explain clearly label the graphic.
(3)    Graphics should make a key concept clearer.
(4)    If you are showing sales statistics, you should concentrate on one market throughout your presentation.
(5)    Use a smaller font to cite sources for statistics.
(6)    Label all your charts clearly.
(7)    Numbers in charts can be difficult to view and understand. Try to find ways other than columns and rows to present your data.
(8)    Take note that PowerPoint automatically deletes portions of charts imported from Excel, leaving only about 5.5 inches on the left.
(9)    Keep the design clean and uncluttered. Leave empty space around the text and graphics,
(10)   Use quality clipart and use it sparingly. The graphic should relate to and enhance the topic of the slide.
(11)   Try to use the same style graphics throughout the presentation (e.g. cartoon, photographs)
(12)   Place your graphics in a similar location within each screen.
(13)   Limit the number of graphics on each slide.
(14)   Check all graphics on a projection screen before the actual presentation.
(15)   Avoid flashy graphics and noisy animation effects unless they relate directly to the slide.
(16)   Limit the number of transitions used. It is often better to use only one so the audience knows what to expect.
(17)   Use contrast: light on dark or dark on light.


(1)    Backgrounds should never distract from the presentation.
(2)    Using the default white background is hard on the viewer’s eyes. You can easily add a design style or a color to the background.

(3)    Backgrounds that are light colored with dark text, or vice versa, look good. A dark background with white font reduces glare.

(4)    Colors appear lighter when projected. Pale colors often appear as white.

(5)    Consistent backgrounds add to a professional appearance.

(6)    For a long presentation, you may want to change background designs when shifting to a new topic.


(1)    Select sans-serif fonts such as Arial or Helvetica. Avoid serif fonts such as Times New Roman or Palatino as they are sometimes more difficult to read.

(2)    Use no font size smaller than 24 point.

(3    Clearly label each screen. Use a larger font (35-45 points) or different color for the title.

(4    Use a single sans-serif font for most of the presentation. Use different colors, sizes and styles (bold, underline) for impact.
(5)    Avoid italicized fonts as they are difficult to read quickly.

(6)    For bullet points, use the 6 x 6 Rule. One thought per line with no more than 6 words per line and no more than 6 lines per slide.

(7)    Use dark text on light background or light text on dark background. However, dark backgrounds sometimes make it difficult for some people to read the text.

(8)    To test the font, stand back six feet from the monitor and see if you can read the slide.

(9    Another rule: Keep your presentation large and legible. Type size should reflect the importance of the various ideas in a slide~ Main points should be larger than secondary points. To make your words more readable, limit typefaces, type sizes and weights to one or two and retain these throughout the presentation. Don’t be tempted by all the font choices available.


(1)Limit the number of colours on a single screen.

(2) Bright colours make small objects and thin lines stand out. However, some vibrant colours are difficult to read when projected.

(3) Use no more than two colors on one chart.

(4) Check all colours on a projection screen before the actual presentation. They may project differently than what appears on the monitor.

(5)    Keep it simple. Limit your colour choices to two or three on a contrasting background, and keep them consistent throughout.

(6)    Tailor colour schemes to the crowd. Is it a foreign audience? Try using their national colour as the background. If it’s a corporate audience of sales and marketing people, try striking colours. If it’s a board of directors, you may want a more conservative approach. Colour brings out different emotional responses. For example:

Red backgrounds heighten the emotions of the audience. For many, red means deficits and financial failure.

Blue backgrounds indicate a conservative approach

Black backgrounds are often used in financial presentations. Black represents what has already happened or what is in the past that cannot be changed.

Green stimulates interaction from the audience.

Try to avoid red-green colour combinations because they don’t offer enough contrast. If any members of your audience are colour-blind, they will be unable to read the slides.

STORIES, ANALOGIES AND EXAMPLES can often be the difference between a good presentation and a great one. Examples and stories help technical information to "come alive" for an audience and most scientific presentations can benefit from including an example or story.