While corresponding recently with a friend asking for presentation design tips, I dug up this 12-year-old but still helpful and delightfully short Seth Godin e-book:

Really Bad PowerPoint (and how to avoid it)

“Almost every PowerPoint presentation sucks rotten eggs.” -Seth Godin

I use Apple’s Keynote software instead of PowerPoint, but it can be misused just as easily. They are fine pieces of software that need to be used simply as tools to support presenters rather than serving as the centerpiece of a presentation. I could go on (and I have) about what I’ve learned about presentation design, but the key is to understand that a presentation is about the interaction of the speaker and the audience. It’s about a transfer of emotion. It’s about provoking a change in thinking or action. It’s the speaker guiding the audience on a journey from “Why?” to “How?”.

Putting your outline or talking points on the screen for all to see does not help accomplish this. If the audience just needs to read your points, why even show up? Just send a memo or report instead.

If you use slides, use words on the screen sparingly. Put only one thought on each slide. Use powerful images to make your point stickier and to highlight the emotion you’re conveying.

Having the attention of an audience is a wonderful gift and an opportunity to make something good happen. Don’t let poorly designed slides get in the way of your chance to make a difference and do something worth talking about.