When and How to Use PowerPoint Slides in a Presentation

At some time or another in your high school or college career, you’ll be required to include PowerPoint slides in a presentation. Even if they are not required, there are certainly times when they would be helpful. PowerPoint slides work well in the following types of presentations:

  • Business presentations (like those that present sales and market information)
  • Project or experiment presentations
  • Any kind of presentation when data needs to be presented
    If your presentation is of a more personal nature, such as a best man’s speech at a wedding, a PowerPoint presentation may bring some humor into the speech, but would not be necessary or appropriate otherwise.

When using PowerPoint slides in a presentation, it’s important to remember that they are there to do the following:

  • Present additional data not mentioned in the presentation.
  • Highlight or emphasize an especially important point of your presentation or important data.
  • Catch listeners’ attention or keep listeners focused on your presentation.

In other words, use the slides to present numbers or points that are relevant and interesting. Do NOT overload each data point with information. Limit the number of points or sentences on a slide to three, and keep the wording short. For example, if you want to say texting on cell phones is the no. 1 cause of rear-end collisions on highways, put it on your slide like this:

Texting is the no. 1 cause of rear-end collisions.

As already mentioned, don’t include more than three short sentences like the one above per PowerPoint slide. Also, keep the number of slides to a minimum and only use them when they will accentuate or enhance the presentation, rather than detract from it. If you use them as cue cards and find yourself reading them word-for-word, you will lose your audience’s attention. For example, if your presentation does not include a lot of numbers or data, and you are presenting a few simple points, you don’t need ANY PowerPoint slides in your presentation. Make sure the slides you do use are easy to read and understand as well as attractive or attention-getting.

Once you’ve developed a few slides that emphasize your key points and enhance your presentation, make sure you indicate in your written presentation when you will show them. Don’t forget to include the slides when you practice giving your presentation.

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