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What Makes a Great PowerPoint Presentation?

written by: Meryl K Evans•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 2/7/2013

Some of us learn better from examples. We try to create our own whiz bang PowerPoint presentations only to fall back on bad habits. Learn what makes a good presentation and see some great examples available on the web.

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    PowerPoint has somewhat of a bad reputation because many users don't use PowerPoint the way it should be used. They use PowerPoint's template or add a ton of text with bullet points and clip art. Speakers giving the presentation are the central focus. Too often, they let PowerPoint take over as their audience reads everything on the slides ignoring what they say -- which is often what you see on the slides.

    Time to let go and accept the fact you're the key part of the presentation. The PowerPoint file is an assistant. It provides visual aids helping those who are visual learners. The slides also give people a point of reference in case they lose their place and struggle to understand a complex topic.

    What if PowerPoint doesn't load? The computer housing the presentation dies? Can you go on without the slides?

    Scroll down for links to examples of some great powerpoint presentations, or keep reading to find the secret of a great presentation.

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    What Makes a Good Presentation?

    • Tell a story.
    • Contain lots of powerful visuals.
    • Use few words.
    • Toss most of the bullet points.

    You may have heard about Guy Kawasaki's 10-20-30 rule: "A PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points." Yet, many hit presentations don't even come close to making that rule. So forget the hard and fast rules. It's about your presence, your topic and your audience.

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    Books on Creating Effective Presentations with or without PowerPoint

    If you need some guidance, these three books will give you everything you need. Check out one, two or all of them. It's up to you:

    • Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson
    • PresentationZen by Garr Reynolds
    • slide:ology by Nancy Duarte
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    Great Presentations Available On the Web

    TED has a wealth of inspiring presentations. Click any presentation and you'll learn from it especially Hans Rosling's presentation. By the way, Bill Gates released the mosquitoes at a TED talk. Now here's a long list of top notch presentations. Before you check them out, think about what draws you to them and capture that on paper. That's what you need to create a powerful PowerPoint presentation.

    1. The Brand Gap based on the best-selling book.
    2. Guy Kawasaki Truemors presentation: Notice it's 55 slides, not 10 slides.
    3. History of the Button: Pick any button…
    4. How to Make Big Things Happen with Small Teams by Jason Fried of 37Signals.
    5. Inbox Zero by Merlin Mann
    6. Shift Happens: You may have seen this one -- it's very good and worth repeating. It caught so many people's attention that information visualizing firm Xplane helped tweak it. The story behind the presentation and its wikispaces page.
    7. Sky McCloud Presentation: Cartoonist Scott McCloud's daughter tells about their trip across the country in a creative way.
    8. Sustainable Food Lab: An organization bringing sustainability to food systems.
    9. Thirst: Addresses the water crisis.
    10. Translation as Vocation: About the career of a translator.
    11. Zimbabwe in Crisis: Sad, yet powerful in getting the message across.