Presentations Don’t Have to be Awful

Let’s talk presentations. PowerPoint presentations, to be exact. Although you might be one of the few who uses Apple’s Keynote application, the focus here is the presentation itself, not the medium. Whichever is your preference, doing it right should be your goal. And there is definitely a right way to go about creating and using a PowerPoint presentation.

You owe it to your audience, and more importantly, to yourself, to create appealing presentations.

There are many basic principles that can change the effectiveness of any presentation. After all, a presentation is created to inform and to provide an audience a substantial take-away. An ineffective presentation will do none of this and ultimately waste the time of the audience and the presenter.

Let’s focus on three principles I find most effective:

One Message

First, reduce the number of messages crammed on to a single slide. Place yourself at a party enjoying a conversation with a friend, when you suddenly hear your name and begin to focus on a nearby conversation. Your friend in front of you is continuing to speak, however, you now have no idea what your friend is talking about because your attention is focused elsewhere. Your presentation slides are the same. Multiple messages will often confuse your audience and leave them without a message and uninterested.

Working Memory

Use short bits of text to enhance your verbal message rather than long, drawn out sentences where your audience will inevitably get lost. They will be unable to listen to you and read your paragraph of text in which you’ve subtly planted gems of information. Provide them with a clear, brief list of the most important ideas or terms which support your verbal message.


Help your audience focus on what is most important by using contrast. Not only large type contrasting with smaller, but understand the overall background tone is just important. If you choose to use a white background, you have chosen to make your slides more important than you, the presenter. To make sure the presenter always IS the presentation, use a dark background, allowing the PowerPoint to do its job and remain a visual aid.


An audience’s ability to grasp and understand a specific subject determines your presentation’s success and it is your job to do everything you can to help them focus. David JP Phillips, a leading Swedish figurehead in the art of making presentations (, TEDX Talks Stockholm) suggests that 90% of what you say in a presentation will be lost within 30 seconds of its delivery if not properly supported by visuals. He sites a person’s lack of an effective working memory to be the culprit. This is the same process of the brain used to remember your seat and section number at the theatre, only to be checked on an average of six times before you finally find your seat. He also sites Dr. James Medina, a leading Neurologist of saying, “If companies would have as little respect for business as they have for presentations the majority would go bankrupt.”

We should, indeed, not be content with “acceptable” presentations that fail at their most basic function; effective communication. We should learn from those same presentations we suffer through ourselves and make strides to change the way we approach our next PowerPoint presentation. These are only few of the proven pieces of the presentation puzzle that we can improve upon to better communicate our businesses. Contact Mercury to discover additional presentation insights you may be missing, improve your marketing communication plan, or your refresh interactive presence. You no longer need to live with “acceptable”.



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