There are so many elements that go into creating a good presentation. From its design, to its delivery, the use of visual aids and public speaking skills all go into a successful presentation delivery. Considering the various components that can make or break a presentation, let’s take a look at what distinguishes a good presentation from a bad PowerPoint.

What makes a good presentation?

The first and most critical sign of a good presentation is preparation. Audiences can immediately tell if a presenter has put time into the design and delivery of their PowerPoint presentation. Prepared presenters have a script written or understand the content so well they can speak endlessly from a simple presentation structure.

A good presenter has also invested time into PowerPoint (or other presentation programs), designing presentation visuals that help explain and emphasise the critical points of the presentation. There’s no reading from the screen or text-heavy slides – just a well-designed presentation that engages audiences.

Another clear sign of presentation preparation is the presenter’s stage presence. Nerves are a natural thing everyone contends with when presenting to others, but preparation ensures presenters take the stage and deliver more confidently. Preparation isn’t just about writing and designing and good presentation; the delivery is just as critical as presenters hold audience attention through movement, body language, vocal strength, and eye contact.

Good presentations are written, designed, and delivered with the audience in mind. By focusing on the people in attendance, presenters are more likely to engage with them, addressing their inquiries and building empathy for their shared situation. Presenters that create content based exclusively on their interests rather than that of the audience, the audience won’t be as receptive, and the presentation won’t resonate with them.

Storytelling is a critical component any good presentation. Presenters understand that facts and figures aren’t as impactful without a narrative to help make the content be more engaging, more relatable, and more entertaining. Stiff and boring presentations are often that way because the presenter simply piles on the facts and figures without using narrative to break things up. Good presenters and good storytellers go hand in hand as they both understand the value of stories in capturing audiences and explaining things in a memorable way.

What makes a good PowerPoint?

In a word – simplicity. With all the clients we work with, most of our time is spent simplifying their work, reducing the ideas and content they send our way. Presenters often cram their PowerPoint slides with all kinds of written content, imagery, animation, and more. The flawed logic is to build a comprehensive PowerPoint, so the presenter doesn’t have to do too much work in delivering the presentation.

While this is an understandable response to public-speaking nerves, it renders the presenter (and presentation) obsolete. The PowerPoint is there to support the presenter; not steal the show. If a PowerPoint slideshow can fulfil the role of presenter and presentation, then it’s probably wiser to design a video rather than a presentation.

Good PowerPoints make intelligent use of text, imagery, data visualisation, and animation. On-screen text should be large enough for all audience members to see and should only be used for key points or highlight-worthy statistics – not complete reading notes or extensive written examples. After all, audiences cannot read and listen effectively at the same time.

Imagery is there to demonstrate information that is easier to comprehend visually rather than verbally. If certain information is more impactful and understandable when displayed rather than explained, then use those images to draw in audiences.

Data visualisation is about transforming facts and figures into more visually engaging content. Whether a graph, a chart, or an infographic – data visualisation presents data in a way that helps audiences see key trends and understand the context of this information. Thankfully, PowerPoint makes it easy to integrate Excel data and visualise that content.

While we’re big fans of PowerPoint animation, presenters shouldn’t use animations and transitions excessively. All animation and transitions should be used sparingly to guide the audience, directing their attention towards critical information. If animation or transitions are used simply for aesthetic, the presenter is more likely to distract audiences than engage them.

What makes a bad PowerPoint?

The most common PowerPoint mistake is packing too much information and content on screen. Presenters often feel it’s better to have too much rather than not enough, dumping as much text, imagery, and animation into their PowerPoint as possible. This is very wrong and almost ensures the audience will stop paying attention.

Having too much on-screen content will likely distract the audience and force the presenter to read from the slides. At that point, it’s no longer a presentation; it’s a shared reading sessions between the presenter and audience, which means the presenter has no reason to be there any longer. Designing a PowerPoint presentation with the audience in mind, doesn’t mean making them do all the work – it’s about tailoring content to address their needs.

Bad PowerPoint presentations often lack consistency. By using a wide variety of format structures, different fonts, and colour schemes. People often don’t consider how important fonts can be, experimenting with different fonts that look good (rather than easy to read). If your brand doesn’t have set fonts for communications, use your presentation as a chance to determine them.

In general, presenters shouldn’t use more than two or three different fonts – one of headline and subheading, another for body text. There also shouldn’t be much disparity between those fonts. To make things simpler, it’s best to choose one font and use its varietals, such as bold, italic, narrow, medium, light, condensed, etc. Also, don’t mix serif and sans serif fonts – it looks amateurish.

When it comes to colour scheme, it’s roughly the same rules as fonts. Pick a primary and secondary colour, then use different shades of those colours to create subtle variances. If your brand already has a set colour scheme, this should be easy. However, if you’re working from scratch, be conscious of which colours clash or complement each other best.