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Don’t Build Your PPT
Like It’s 1999

Judy Chu

Hotwire has over 20 years of igniting possibilities for tech businesses. Hear our expert views and insights from our team on the latest developments in the industry.

Let’s face it; we all have to make presentations — and the most common and arduous tool is PowerPoint, unless you’re one of the lucky few to use Keynote (or better yet unconventional platforms like Prezi). As presentations evolve, the flashy trends of the 90s still seem to have held on — people continue to present word art and transition slides tending to induce epilepsy, or at the very least a graphic designer’s gag reflex.

To reduce these ailments, and help your business catch up to 2017, here are some quick tips that apply no matter the format you are using.

Follow these tips to set your slides and presentations up for success:

1. Remember to keep it simple
Business pros often worry their presentations lack sufficient information, and as a result, stuff their slides with excessive text. Our attention spans have decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2013, so cramming presentations full of copy won’t help audiences absorb more information. Slides are meant to be visual aids, not read verbatim.

2. Use visual aids and graphic representations.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Our short attention spans have rendered us vulnerable to the Sesame Street Syndrome, where the audience prefers visual stimulation (learn by watching) to traditional stimulation (learn by reading), also known as infotainment. Replace bullets with graphical representations and opt for full-bleed images with a 1–2 line statement to reinforce your point.

3. Cut excessive transitions and animations
Remember the first time you used PowerPoint and were completely blown away by all the magical movement the application had to offer? You’d fill slides with different animations, expecting that would keep your audience entertained. But in fact, animations often create more distraction than assistance.

You may opt to use a build to break down complex information, but keep in mind that builds work best with an overarching concept or theme. If you combine multiple unrelated concepts into one slide, it’ll be like reading a run-on sentence. Make sure each slide presents a clear, concise concept.

Unless it makes sense to use a build, use only basic animations like “appear” or “fade.” If you plan on using slide transitions from one slide to the next, use the same transitions throughout the entire deck for consistency and cohesiveness. (And again — keep them simple. “Blinds” and “fly in/out” are not simple, they’re distracting.)

4. Know your audience
Before your presentation, do research on the audience you’ll be speaking with. Do they like to read along with their own copy? Do they prefer a physical version? Will they view it from their tablet?

Make it printer-friendly. For audiences that prefer to reference a physical copy of your presentation during the meeting, make sure all elements of your slides are visible. As mentioned before, if you’ve built out an in-depth slide with multiple layers and builds, consider splitting it into multiple slides so that the elements do not print on top of each other.

Make it universal. Might be shocking, but not everyone uses PowerPoint these days. Not only that, some PowerPoint versions may be outdated, thus lacking key features or unable to open your file. Whether you’re using PowerPoint, Keynote, or some other software, make sure that you export to a file format that can be viewed without that software. Prepare backup solutions such as exporting a PDF of your presentation or creating an alternate version through Google Presentation. Or LinkedIn SlideShare shares some great alternatives to PowerPoint.

Here are some additional resources with suggestions for building your next presentation:

10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint by Guy Kawasaki: 10 slides presented in 20 minutes using 30-point font. According to Kawasaki, “a normal human being cannot comprehend more than ten concepts in a meeting.” Therefore, in an hour-long meeting, presenting a limited amount of concepts leaves room for discussion, which keeps participants thoroughly engaged.

PechaKucha 20×20: 20 images presented for 20 seconds each, totaling a presentation of 6 minutes and 40 seconds. Originating from Japan, this presentation style has gained popularity among design, architecture, and photography fields across the world and can be useful in marketing, too. Presentations are set up to be extremely concise and highly visual with minimal text to easily get points across.

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