Five Deadly PowerPoint Mistakes – and How to Avoid Them

PowerPoint MistakesAvoid these five deadly PowerPoint mistakes and create an engaging presentation that will knock your audience’s socks off. Common mistakes are shared, along with easy fixes to avoid them. Additional tips are provided to help business owners create great PowerPoint presentations.

Love it or hate it, PowerPoint is the program of choice for anyone presenting to a group. With its colorful backgrounds and plethora of graphics, it’s easy to get swept up in animations, jazzy fonts and dozens of slides.

But for those who’ve suffered through the presentation from hell, filled with tiny type, huge chunks of text on screen, and monotone presentations that seem to go on forever, PowerPoint is both a blessing and a curse. The curse likely comes from these five deadly PowerPoint mistakes. Most presenters have made these mistakes at some point in their careers. But if you want to be known as a superlative presenter, avoid them like the plague.

The Five Deadly PowerPoint Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)


Mistake #1: Too much text on the screen. Cramming your screen with mouse type (tiny type) makes it impossible for your audience to read it while you speak.
The Fix: Create handouts people can read after the presentation when you need to share a lot of information with your audience. Use images during a presentation instead of big blocks of text. Images engage your audience better than text during presentations or lectures.


Mistake #2: Too many slides. How many slides you need for your presentation depends on the length and complexity of the topic. Beware, however, the trap of cramming so much information about your topic into one presentation that you leave your audience breathless with the speed at which you cram in the last portion of the presentation as you zip through the ending slides.
The Fix: Buy a stopwatch and time your presentation in a trial-run through. A good rule of thumb for the average presenter is to estimate one minute to deliver each slide. For those who are confident public speakers, estimate two minutes per slide. Add 10 minutes for discussion, interruptions, questions and answers to estimate the total length of a presentation.


Mistake #3: Using a light background and dark text. PowerPoint’s templates typically use a dark background with lighter-colored text. It’s the same concept as street signage, which tends to have a dark green background with white lettering; contrasting colors make it easier to read text at a distance.
The Fix: Don’t change the default settings on PowerPoint templates unless you’re confident in your graphic design abilities. Keep the background dark and the lettering light for best visibility, especially when presenting in large rooms or auditoriums where the back row is quite a distance from the screen.


Mistake #4: Too much animation. Animation can enliven a presentation, but if every slide has something zooming, blinking or flashing on it, your audience can feel overwhelmed. It can also make your presentation appear amateurish.
The Fix: Limit animation to a small selection of slides, choosing those where animation places the emphasis on key concepts.


Mistake #5: Not double checking your presentation for errors. Nothing is more embarrassing than seeing a typo up on the screen, or worse, having video clips or other media not working correctly. Just as actors and musicians don’t go on stage to perform before investing hours of practice into their show, so too must a presenter invest time and effort to practice his presentation.
The Fix: Give yourself plenty of time to rehearse and double check your presentation before the big day. Run spell check and grammar check on your presentation. Ask a colleague you trust to review it for typographic errors. Double and triple check media clips, facts and figures to make sure they are accurate.

Other PowerPoint Tips


Large corporations often create unique, branded slide masters for their corporate PowerPoint templates. Even a small business can create their own template by going into the “Master” settings for the title and body slides and adding corporate colors, logos and a standard footer. This creates a branded, professional-looking template for any sized business.


You can find updated templates and specialized templates on the Microsoft Office website. These templates include presentations for marketing plans, financial plans and more. They may be better suited to your unique presentation.


Graphs and charts can be used to share information in data-intense financial presentations. These visual representations of data often convey a lot of information quickly and succinctly. You can create graphs and charts within PowerPoint or import them from Excel or other programs.

The next time you’re asked to deliver a presentation, make it shine by incorporating these PowerPoint presentation tips. Avoid the five deadly mistakes, incorporate the best practices, and wow your audience with a professional presentation they’ll remember long after the meeting is concluded.

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