Presenting with PowerPoint

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • How do I create a powerpoint presentation?
  • How many slides should my presentation have?
  • How do I develop my slides?

The manager that doesn't have to make at least one presentation each week is fairly rare. Today, we begin the discussion on making effective presentations, beginning with some general guidelines governing the use of tools like Microsoft PowerPoint.

During the podcast, we make reference to a great book by Barbara Minto, "The Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing and Thinking". Here's a link to her book on Amazon. It's one of our favorite books on management communications and you simply can't go wrong by purchasing copies for both you and your subordinates.

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Manager Tools takes on PowerPoint But

Manager Tools takes on PowerPoint

But I don't think they went far enough. I mean, think about it: given the limits they set, why use PowerPoint at all? [...] Think about one more thing: their podcast is fascinating, useful, and informative. And it has no slides. I can't even see Mark...

Mark, just listening to this now and

Mark, just listening to this now and had to pause it and comment. You mention "title case" about the captialisation of the words in the sentence. As a progammer we call that "camel case" as the case goes up and down like the humps of a camel... :)

I also am a big fan of the Minto

I also am a big fan of the Minto Pyramid Principle. You are one of the few places I have ever heard it mentioned. Barbara Minto's web site is "hidden" on the net at I created an entire consulting analysis class around her book and it was a raging success at my firm. The only problem with the principles are that, while seemingly straightforward, they require patience, focus, and discipline to apply in the real world. Nevertheless, clearly the one of the best and most practical books around that every business person can gain from.

You also might encourage listeners to get onto the "Contrary Public Speaker", a great podcast on making speeches and presentations. Contrary to popular belief, the best speeches or presentations should be made WITHOUT PowerPoint.

Keep up the good work.


Andrew- Did not know that Title Case


Did not know that Title Case was called Camel Case. A classic appellation - nicely descriptive!


Eric- You're right, of course.


You're right, of course. Minto is the gold standard and will take effort as precious to master. Patience, focus and discipline are in short supply, it would seem. I will check out Contrary Public Speaker as well.


Derek (Penmachine)- Well said. Both

Derek (Penmachine)-

Well said. Both Mike and I agree that we did not do a good job setting up the latest cast on PowerPoint. We started to, and then bogged down in ALL THE DISCLAIMERS! The REAL power in presentations is presnting to small enough groups (audiences of one are a sweet spot) that you tailer your delivery completely.

So, we agree, and yet wanted to give those whose corporate culture REQUIRE decks (slides, foils, presentations, PowerPoint) some simple tips.

There's more coming here, and this taught us a good lesson about context up front. Thanks for the input.


Take a trip to the blog of Cliff

Take a trip to the blog of Cliff Atkinson, author of 'Beyond Bullet Points' He's doing his damnedest to wean us all off interminable bulleted list slides and back to visuals that are evocative, provocative and a complement to the speaker, rather than the speaker's script writ large.

Garr Reynolds' 'Presentation Zen' blog also provides a nice commentary on this new approach.

Hi Michael and Mark, Just wanted to

Hi Michael and Mark,

Just wanted to compliment you guys on your show. Although I'm not a manager, as in a 'boss' kind of way, I'm 'just' a consultant, I do have to manage most of my clients in getting them to work together, or with me, and leading them into succesfull projects.

Listening to your podcasts gave me alot of tools doing so.

Also working as a virtual team member with my fellow consultants, salesforce and managers, it gives me great input making the job done more effective. So thank you very much for that.

Keep it up, you've got yourself a new listener! I even promoted your show today to one of my clients, who is a financial manager, but strugled with some issues in his team. So I said, well you've gotta listen to this podcast. I first had to explain to him what a podcast was, even more, he didn't even know what an iPod was, (they do excist) but he was glad whith the 'feedback' I gave him. It worked! Podcasts improved my professional skills! Wow! Thanks guys!


It's worth buying the version of

It's worth buying the version of Barbara's book available on her website at

The version available through Amazon, is an old edition. Barbara's website carries the latest edition, which contains additional material.

I can second the recommendation of Cliff Atkinson's work on the subject, and Gene Zelazny (McKinsey's presentation guru) is also worth a read.

Stephen Baishya

Exactly how it should be. The less

Exactly how it should be. The less sheets the better. Focus should be on the story told, not on the powerpoint slides.

By the way. I would love another

By the way. I would love another podcast about presenting, but in this case the focus on your personal behaviour in front of your audience.

Dennis- It's on our list. A simple


It's on our list. A simple thing that we do that others notice with almost awe - and we think of it as entry level stuff - is always gesture towards your visuals with the HAND NEAREST THE VISUAL. The extreme opposite of this is gradually turning yourself around in the course of a presentation and facing the slides with your audeince. By using the "near hand" rule, you can face th audience and use your visuals as supporting devices (versus them becoming holy tablets).

We have it on our list! Thanks for the suggestion.


[...] Coincidentally, I was listening

[...] Coincidentally, I was listening tonight to the Manager Tools podcast episode on Effective PowerPoint and Mark Horstman gave similar advice.  [...]

I just got round to listening to your

I just got round to listening to your podcast on Powerpoint presentations. When I help prepare my snr management at an energy company for speeches and presentations, weaning them away from PPT - or focusing on the 'story' not the slides - is tough. However, a colleague of mine shared with me a paper by Edward Tufte, a Yale University professor and influential expert on the presentation of visual information. He points out that the independent Board investigating the Challenger disaster concluded: "...the Board views the endemic use of PowerPoint briefing slides instead of technical papers as an illustration of the problematic methods of technical communication at NASA.''
Indeed, he argues that the over-reliance on PPT as an imperfect technical presentation tool 'blinded' senior management to the seriousness of the problem facing Challenger after a tile had hit it on launch. A damning indictment of PPT.
I now have a powerful example to point to in order to turn them off relying on PPT.

nachapman- Great story! You may not


Great story! You may not know it, but Tufte is widely considered to be the most singularly brilliant guy on visual presentation of data alive. He has two books that are considered so good as to be art, and up until recently, we had them on our list of best books (but took them off because they were a little theoretical and hard to apply in day to day situations.)

When I work with execs, I always start with, "what is the key message you want to get across?" And then I ask, how can you emotionally help the audience get there?" Data goes in the handouts. It's different, sometimes too much... but the result, when followed, is always better.

Glad you liked the show! It's a privilege to serve you.


[...] For a good audio podcast that has

[...] For a good audio podcast that has similar themes, check out one of last year’s Manager Tools podcasts: it focuses on using power point. Good stuff to listen to while out driving or working out. An overall message from both sources: put less stuff in the slides and more into a separate handout. We all too often use the slides as both the visual presentation medium and the handout. [...]

Mark or Michael: The link to this

Mark or Michael:

The link to this show is dead :(

It's been resuscitated ... back from

It's been resuscitated ... back from the dead! ;-)

Thanks for bringing to our attention!


A good one.But what about Steve Jobs?

A good one.But what about Steve Jobs? His presentations are full of multimedia features. They are very simple though and they really work. Well I still consider what kind of audience are they directed to.

We're not done talking about

We're not done talking about PowerPoint. We had to start somewhere, and so just shared the basics. Really GREAT presentations are about a lot more than just slides...but many are not quite ready for moving away from slides and leading persuasive meetings.

But we will deliver on that.


Our CEO visited our location yesterday.

Our CEO visited our location yesterday. He was coming to present at an all-employee meeting. On arrival (30 minutes before the meeting) he asked three local managers (including me) to talk at that meeting as well. We each prepared a few slides.

When the meeting started, the CEO told us that he would be using powerpoint only as notes to himself, without a presentation screen. And so we collectively decided to do the same and switched off the beamer.

We had a great meeting!

Note to some earlier remark: The term CamelCase is not synonymous with
Title Case: it is used to describe multiple capitals in a single (concatenated) word.

There's an interesting podcast creation

There's an interesting podcast creation tool called SnapKast on that allows you to open PowerPoint, record the slides, your voice, and any annotations with a mouse, tablet or whiteboard pen. You can create an MP3 audio or MP4 video. There are samples on the web site. You can also create an RSS feed from your sessions. I tried the free demo and it works real nice and easy.

Enoack, where is the “Contrary

Enoack, where is the “Contrary Public Speaker” podcast? I'd love to hear it.

Find it at

Find it at, of course.


At our company we are very big on

At our company we are very big on safety and each month we are asked to present a set of safety slides; they are prepared by the company.The slides can be full of data and charts and many bullets. Any suggestions?

Yes, but I guess I don't know what kind

Yes, but I guess I don't know what kind of suggestions you want...?


Hoi guys. Just a quick thanks from

Hoi guys.

Just a quick thanks from Nederland, for the great podcast you and Mark are producing.

I need to tell you something great that happened to me this week This podcast helped me enourmously! As former C#/ASP.NET-software developer (and the pictorial pizza & cola consumer locked into a cubicle) my presentations and communication skills, just plainly sucked.

After having listened to your podcast, plus applying technqiues from a few other podcasts my 4 presentations about the new improved sales system was, geuss what? It really rocked the house! Now even more revealing that this (4 presentations) was the first time ever in my life that i have stood in front of people to tell something great. My audience consisted of ladies from the call centre, a few unit leaders and a executive form the Board of Directors.
Afterwards, my big boss came to congratulate me.. and some other people said that the ladies from the callcenter are now in my fanbase :).

You guys have contributed a great deal to my confidence and success. THANX!

Merasmus- Way to go! We're thrilled


Way to go! We're thrilled that you've put our recommendations to use so effectively.

The credit always goes to the one in the ring, sir.


Nice article in Business Week about how

Nice article in Business Week about how to be effective in presentations. The author uses Steve Jobs as an exemplar, and much of this is in line with the MT recommendations:

John Hack

Hi Mark, hi Mike, I re-listened your

Hi Mark, hi Mike,

I re-listened your podcasts about power point and presentation because I have to present for 30 minutes in front of a big international audience in a few days.

I want to thank you again for your help.

Oh ... And do you know what a POWERNAP is ? It is what you get when you listen to a very boring POWERPOINT presentation ... Yes I know, it is bad.