Powerful Points that Rock

February 8th, 2007   •   14 comments   

Seth Godin, the master of all things marketing, shares some valuable lessons on how to make an impression with your powerpoints. I am definitely guilty of some of the worst trangressions (like bullet points) but I suppose some of these old habits die hard.

In particular, I like his 5 point list below:

  1. No more than six words on a slide. EVER. There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken.
  2. No cheesy images. Use professional stock photo images.
  3. No dissolves, spins or other transitions.
  4. Sound effects can be used a few times per presentation, but never use the sound effects that are built in to the program. Instead, rip sounds and music from CDs and leverage the Proustian effect this can have. If people start bouncing up and down to the Grateful Dead, you’ve kept them from falling asleep, and you’ve reminded them that this isn’t a typical meeting you’re running.
  5. Don’t hand out print-outs of your slides. They don’t work without you there.

More of Seth Godin’s post here.

Other than Seth, the other masters of the art of presenting are Steve Jobs (whose product launches are always spectacularly choreographed), Guy Kawasaki, Lawrence Lessig and of course the guru of all gurus Tom Peters. Most of the time, these masters do not have elaborate 20 point slides (Seth says bullets are for the NRA) with complicated charts and graphs. Simplicity, it seems, is the key to powerpoint success.

The best reference on how to create presentations that sizzle AND sell is Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. Simply the best online reference on this subject matter. And its all free.

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  1. etel
    posted on Feb 09, 2007 at 8:57 AM

    useful tips! ive learnt all these during those presentation days (i was in business and we present like every other day),

    Another point to add: font colors must be clear enough, no yellow fonts with white background! nono!

  2. Lam Chun See
    posted on Feb 09, 2007 at 9:10 AM

    I think etel used the right word .. tips. Not rules. Must be flexible mah.

    BTW – did I have too many bullets in my presentation at the Blogging for Seniors talk.

    What is “professional stock photo images”?

  3. posted on Feb 09, 2007 at 3:19 AM

    Walter, a very helpful post. I guess regardless of which line we are, we cant run away from Powerpoint Presentation.

    Juz another point to add:
    Font size is another key to a good PPT slide. It should be set in accordance to the room size,i.e the 8H rule. Generally the font size shall be at least 18 points.
    Make ur viewer n listener comfortable could in a great deal gain more attention. The ultimate point is: Convey ur msg, Convince ur audience.

  4. posted on Feb 09, 2007 at 3:23 AM

    nice one brudder, interesting points up there man..and eh..I am guilty of like printing handouts (but civil service lah)

    Think I am gonna see if I can post this in my organisation’s intranet.

  5. posted on Feb 09, 2007 at 4:22 AM

    ok, forward this to my staff:
    Learn & teach me. No boring presentation next time.

  6. Box
    posted on Feb 09, 2007 at 5:15 AM

    actually the powerpoint slide is only half the story.

    the other half is how you present yourself.

    if you have time to sit through the recent macworld vid with steve jobs, jerry yang and someone from Cingular (actually i think the CEO), you’d see a huge gulf in presentation skills.

    good presentation skills are really honed by how you get to carnegie hall…practice practice practice

    ps. thanks for all your comments on my blog too walter!

  7. posted on Feb 09, 2007 at 4:11 PM

    Limiting only 6 words to a slide means you have talk a lot, probably off the cuff. Very few people can do an impressive LHL-National-Day-speech.

  8. posted on Feb 09, 2007 at 11:01 PM

    Thanks for all your comments guys. Doing an excellent and memorable presentation requires a fair amount of work. You need to understand the subject matter very well, to the point that you do not have to even look at the slides very much. Reading off the screen is supposed to be a major boo-boo, as people can read it for themselves.

    On the matter of handouts, I learnt further that you should distribute it AFTER the presentation. In that way, people will have to sit glued to what you speak instead of be distracted and flip through the handouts. However, I guess Singapore conference attendees usually expect delegate notes in advance.

  9. posted on Feb 09, 2007 at 11:14 PM


    I think understanding and knowledge of the subject matter plays a big role. Of course lots of practice and engagement with the audience.

    For me, I believe that a candid and frank style, coupled with some self deprecating comments, helps us to connect. In addition, the speed is also crucial. Speak too quickly and nobody knows what you are talking about. Speak too slowly and you will definitely drive them to slumber!

  10. posted on Feb 09, 2007 at 11:22 PM


    There are two approaches that we can consider.

    1) Be a good orator (like MM) and have very little text on the slides. This requires enormous amounts of practice and drills if you are not legally trained.

    2) Use a huge number of slides (like 100s) but you spend only about a few seconds per slide. THere is an interesting example by Dick Hardt on the Lessig method which you can look at for inspiration. Again, lots of practice though.

  11. posted on Feb 10, 2007 at 6:18 PM

    I totally removed Microsoft Powerpoint program from my ibook (Mac) it came with it but I really hate it. The startup takes so long and the selections are really little.

    Instead I went for Apple iWork’s KeyNote and have never ever look bad when doing presentations for to clients of my companies, students during lecturing or seminars. 🙂

    Go here:

  12. posted on Feb 10, 2007 at 6:22 PM

    ‘LHL-National-Day-speech’ type will bound to make many kill themselves on the spot, hanging themselves with their own or others underwears or socks. 🙂

  13. Lam Chun See
    posted on Feb 11, 2007 at 10:59 AM

    I think we cannot use MM as example becos we are in different class. I once heard a public speaking consultant comment on MM’s stlye. He said that when MM was young he spoke very quickly. But today, a man of his stature can afford to speak slowly and yet the audience will latch on to every word and not go to sleep.

  14. posted on Feb 11, 2007 at 1:14 PM

    Agree Chun See. Also, err…MM has a certain stature in Singapore (and the world) so whether he speaks fast or slow, folks will listen!

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