Practical Communication

20 Visual Presentation Guidelines I Try to Follow

Many people say PowerPoint is dead, killed off by the new generation of online presentation tools such as Prezi.

However, in most corporate, education, and other environments PowerPoint is still the tool of choice.

I don’t think PowerPoint is going away anytime soon and having attended several presentations over the past few months that fell under the category of “Death By Powerpoint,” I’d like to reiterate the importance of creating good visuals for your presentations—no matter what tool you use.  

Here are 20 guidelines you can follow if you want to create visuals that enhance your presentation and engage learners rather than detract from your presentation and put your audience to sleep.


Status Update1. Match your design to the theme of your presentation

2. Avoid overused “stock” template designs.

3. Keep animation (moving, flying, flipping text and pictures) to a minimum.

4. If you use video, don’t let it become your presentation.

5. Use a minimum number of READABLE typefaces (not fonts- fonts are styles and sizes of typefaces).

6. Be consistent in font size for headers, main text, and sub-points.

7. Be sure your font size is appropriate for the size of your projection and your presentation room. I try to use 30 point or higher for body text.

8. Choose your color scheme wisely. Some colors just don’t go together, like a red background with green text. You want to choose colors that are easy to see and go with your theme and the mood you’re trying to set for your presentation.

9. Use a light background with dark text for most presentations.

10. Don’t use Comic Sans … ever!

11. Try to stay within the 6X6 rule. Use no more than six words across and six lines down. NO PARAGRAPHS.

12. A picture IS worth 1,000 words- use pictures to help tell, or sell, your message.

13. Only select quality pictures. A fuzzy, stretched out picture is not worth using.

14. A visual isn’t a script, it should only include keysword/prompts. People are coming to hear you speak. If they wanted to read, or be read to, they’d have bought a book.

15. When using tables or graphs, label them clearly.

16. Just because your table/graph is labeled clearly, doesn’t mean you don’t have to explain it. You can’t just stand there and say, “Here are the stats,” and pause silently for a minute.

17. Practice using your visuals BEFORE your presentation- what pops up on the screen shouldn’t be a surprise to you.

18. Test your presentation onsite well before your presentation. Try it out in the room and on the equipment you’ll actually be using to ensure everything works properly and your presentation can be seen from all angles and distances in the room.

19. Don’t talk to your visual, talk to your audience. It’s okay to look at your visual occasionally, but your attention should always be on your audience.

20. Use an “appropriate” amount of visuals.  There really aren’t any strict rules for the number of visuals you should have in a presentation. It really depends on the content of your visuals. If they’re more text  heavy, you’d probably use fewer. If they consist of one or two key words or just graphics, you may use more. What you don’t want to do is what I experienced at a recent presentation. The presenter flipped through her slides as fast as a Vegas dealer shuffles a deck of cards. When the audience asked her to slow down, her response was, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll email you the slides later.” My thought was, “If that’s the case, I could have just stayed home in my pyjamas and reviewed your slides from the comfort of my couch.”


A final thought: these guidelines aren’t LAW, they’re just recommendations, but I think they’re a good place to start.


What other guidelines would you add to this list? Or, what are your PowerPoint or other visual presentation pet peeves?

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