Your brain makes decisions either by taking its time or through mental shortcuts based on past experience. As a speaker, if you present too much information, your audience will take longer to make a decision. Most speakers make the mistake of overwhelming their audience by using complicated PowerPoint slides.


Choose simple templates with light backgrounds. Avoid slide templates that have distracting borders and dominating background pictures.

Tailor the slide by the choice of font and text size. Calibri and Verdana are more readable than Times New Roman. Use the title bar to create engaging slide headings: instead of saying ‘luggage specifications’, say ‘make your load lighter’. Create interesting titles for your presentation. Instead of saying ‘IFRS update’, say ‘wading through the times of change’. Pay attention to the colour combination and contrast. Colours have emotional meaning: for example, purple is associated with royalty and wisdom and red is associated with passion and excitement. Avoid combining colours that are individually dominating – like red and green, or blue and purple.

As human beings we learn through four mediums: visual (what we see); auditory (what we hear); kinesthetic (what we experience); and sensory (involving any of the five senses). As a speaker, think of innovative ways to bring in all four mediums within your PowerPoint slide through the use of powerful visual images; impactful video clips; inspirational audio clippings. Teach your audience through the use of high-quality, simple, yet intriguing photo images. Expand the photo to match the size of the slide with a simple text line over the image. This forces your audience to listen to you for the explanation on the photo. The rule for high engagement: less text and more images. Have a holding slide with an appropriate image as you ask your audience to conduct an activity or group discussion during your talk.

As a speaker, you are in charge of any fancy technology that you use. Invest in a clicker with a black-out button – you can also create a ‘black-out’ or a ‘white-out’ effect by pressing ‘B’ and ’W’ respectively on the keyboard with the PowerPoint on ‘slide’ mode. Be able to present without a PowerPoint slide through the use of flip charts or white boards. Facing the audience, always stand to the right of the projector – this is because we read from left to right and the audience’s eyes should always rest on you as a speaker and not on the projector.

Design your slides such that each slide contains one idea; one picture and one idea per slide. The transition of your slides should be logical and persuasive.

Inspirational advice

  • Create infographics: They are very useful as handouts for discussion.
  • Avoid the PowerPoint parade: Copying and pasting your report onto a slide is not a ‘PowerPoint’.
  • Prepare and practise: A PowerPoint slide should never replace you as a speaker but is merely a tool to complement your talk.
  • Limit distracting animation and transitions: Powerful images combined with powerful word usage and stage presence make for a more impactful talk.
  • Prepare your slides last: Your presentation should be able to be delivered on its own. Slides enhance the experience of your audience and are not be the focal point.

Author: Dineshrie Pillay CA(SA) is a business owner and public speaker trainer