Because it is so readily available and easy to use, PowerPoint is still considered the default presentation solution. However, that ease of access and simplicity can also lead to bad presentation habits. Here’s how to avoid the five biggest issues.

Using Microsoft Slide Templates

The stock templates that come with PowerPoint have improved over the past 25 years, but they are ubiquitous and tell your audience that you did not take the time or make the effort to create something that reflects on you, your message and your organization in a more positive manner. You can alter the standard colors, fonts, and backgrounds of those stock templates with just a little effort (or hire someone to help you with a fresh look – hint, hint).

Clip Art & Stock Photos

We can’t stress enough that you should never use clipart (and its evil sibling, Word Art) in your presentation. It rarely supports your message in an appropriate way. In fact, no art beats clipart every single time.

Also be careful with stock photography. Appropriate images can do a great job of reinforcing your message in a meaningful way. While there are good photos out there (here is a link we like) there are also many corny, cliché-invoking, unnatural images. Again, sometimes a little text and no image is better than a (very) stock photo.

Excessive Text

Many people are visual learners. Walls of text will almost immediately cause you to lose a huge portion of your audience. Massive numbers of bullets, data points, and jargon are the hallmarks of a terrible presentation.

Take the time to think about your message and the one to three items you most want your audience to walk out of that room remembering, and build your presentation with the end in mind. Focus on using as few words as possible to convey or reinforce your primary points. Distill complex ideas into simple visual statements with one key idea per slide.

And while we’re on the subject of text, stick with no more than two clear, standard fonts. Using basic fonts such as Arial and Times Roman ensure they work well on any machine you may need to run your presentation on, and support – not distract from – your message.

Meaningless Animation

Animation is great for your 8-year-old’s school presentation (although some might argue that letting them learn bad habits early simply contributes to Death by PowerPoint), but it should only appear in a professional PowerPoint if it adds value. Does it demonstrate something you cannot easily convey with words and static images? Does it move your story along in a meaningful way or help your audience understand your message? Is it executed well? If you must use animation, keep it simple and minimal.

Using Your Presentation as a Teleprompter

NOTHING is worse than watching someone read their slides. We can read faster than you can talk, and we cannot listen to you while we’re reading. If the text is on the screen, we’re going to ignore what you are saying, read the screen, and miss anything you said that might have supplemented or clarified the words on the screen.

Your presentation should intrigue your audience so they want to listen to you more closely, not cause them to look down at their phone because they’ve already read your text and can now ignore you.