PowerPoint has become a major tool used to disseminate
information in classrooms. Yet many faculty and students often use PowerPoint
in ways that distract and confuse viewers. To help, consider these 11
commandments for using PowerPoint effectively:
- Thou shalt not put War and
Peace on a slide. Too much text on a slide makes it difficult for a
learner to both see and process information. The solutions are easy. Use
more slides or outline only major ideas on each slide and then verbally
add details. Guidelines suggest no more than six bullet points per
slide, no more than six words per point.
- Thou shalt not use fonts
smaller than 28-point. Do you need bifocals to read slides on a huge
projection screen? Why make your audience squint? Not only is that
irritating, but it can cause eye fatigue, and viewers miss important information.
To check your font size, print out a slide, put it on the floor at your
feet. If you can read it from a standing position, then your font size
should work in a typical sized classroom.
- Thou shalt not use busy
backgrounds or ineffective colors. Donít make your audience
need sunglasses. If a background has too much going on, it competes with
the information. Also, poor color choices make slides difficult to read.
When broadcasting PowerPoint slides over a two-way video system, yellow is
a very difficult color on the viewerís eyes. Consider using
aesthetically pleasing color choices with good color contrast. And bear
in mind that dark slides in a darkened room in a class after lunch may
be just a little too soothing. Light fonts on a dark background are best
for projection, dark fonts on a light background are best for printed
- Thou shalt not complicate
slides with too many figures and tables. The whole purpose of showing
a figure or table is lost when a learner must focus on trying to make sense
of all the numeric information. Use a handout instead, or refer to a
page number or a website where the information can be perused at
leisure. If a large table needs to be part of a presentation, break it
into chunks on several slides and focus on one aspect of it at a
- Thou shalt use animation,
audio, and pictures in moderation. While animations work well for
the Cartoon Network, you donít want your audience to focus on the bombs
bursting in air and flags waving. Remember, the goal is to transmit
information, not lose your message in the glitz. Pictures and audio can
help break up the monotony of written words, but use them to enhance
your message, instead of letting them become the message.
- Thou shalt acknowledge all
references used. Thou shall not tell a lie or steal someone elseís
thunder. The same rules of evidence apply with PowerPoint. When you use
a quote, table, figure, or summarize someone elseís work, cite the
- Thou shalt surely back up thy
presentation. Save and save often is not just good advice, it should be the
law. Remember, it is not ďifĒ technology will fail, it is when; and you
must be prepared. Backup your work on disk!
- Thou shalt not read the
slides word for word. If all the learner needed to do was read the slide, you
would not need to be there. Use the slides as guides for a
presentation. Also, donít take the slides right out of your resources.
Use the slides to zero in on important topics, and add more material
- Thou shalt not use slides
One or more hours of nothing but talk and PowerPoint slides would bore
anyone. Use interactive exercises to address other learning styles.
Remember, the mind can only absorb what the butt can endure. (Even if
your presentation is only 15 minutes it is still a good idea to use
interactive exercises, demonstrations, or other such methods to
supplement your PowerPoint mini-lecture.)
- Thou shalt practice. Donít go in cold and fumble.
PowerPoint is only a tool ó one you need to use with poise and
- Thou shalt allow the listener
time to process the slides. While fast talking makes great commercials, it does
not make for effective instruction. Donít put up a slide and then skip
over it ó thatís very confusing. Always allow time for questions, and
encourage your audience to ask them. Be sure to determine if your
audience understands the concepts you are presenting before moving on.
Adapted from: The
Teaching Professor, June/July 2004
PowerPoint presentations (a "how to" technical guide)