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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

PowerPoint Tips for Small Business Owners

PowerPoint is boring.

At least that’s the case when presentations get bogged down with long bullet lists, distracting graphics or too much text.

For small business owners and entrepreneurs the use of presentation software is often essential. In fact, many audiences come to a presentation expecting PowerPoint will be used. Using it effectively, however, is not always that easy.

Keep it simple

The first strategy is to be very direct with the content, according to Robb Christopherson, an elementary school principal and adjunct professor with the California State University system.

“The research indicates that effective presentation and instruction is explicit and direct,” he said. “You should engage your audience by being interesting, yet also very focused.”

He suggested that presenters limit the amount of text on slides and avoid reading the text word for word. Also, minimize the use of distracting animations or graphics that may pull attention away from the key points, he told BusinessNewsDaily.

Another tip is to not go crazy with the color choices. While PowerPoint and similar software offer endless options for customization, a professional-looking, but minimalist color scheme is best. A presenter should keep in mind that the purpose of the slides is to enhance, not take over, the presentation, Christopherson said.

While PowerPoint use varies widely by industry, some small business owners say that effective use of it or similar software is an essential component of successful presentations.

Bob Cain, president of Harris Manufacturing Company in Fresno, Calif., said that keeping PowerPoint slides to the point and minimizing the use of distracting graphics were critical.

“Dazzle them with the power of what it is you are going to do for them or show them, don’t try to dazzle them with fancy graphics and other nonsense,” he said.

Cain recalled attending many presentations where the speaker made poor choice of graphic schemes, making the text on-screen unreadable. He has also observed in some PowerPoint slide shows an overload of data, such as trying to cram a complex bar graph onto one slide. Or there is the problem of presenters handing out duplicates of their presentation in paper form; a practice that can distract an audience from the speaker.

Cain said the most effective presentations are uncomplicated and use a measured amount of information.

“The best PowerPoint presentations I have ever seen are ones that are very, very simple,” he said. “They don’t have to be sophisticated with all of these fancy graphics such as a little cartoon guy running onto the screen and holding a pointing stick up to each point.”

Free alternatives

For others, ditching PowerPoint altogether is the best move. That was the case for Ryan Weber, founder of Radiant Photography in Las Vegas.

“I got out of grad school and I haven’t used it since then,” he said. “No one ever wowed me with it when I was younger so it never became a powerful element of my industry. It didn’t seem like there was that much reason to go there.”

He argued that instead of the traditional PowerPoint presentation there are more powerful free, web-based solutions that could be more cost-effective to those trying to launch a new business.

One product is Animoto, which allows a user to upload a series of photos and set them to music, creating a music video type of display.

“That was one of the most powerful things I used,” he said. “I get this rad, 30-second HD commercial.”

Another presentation tool getting a lot of buzz is Prezi. Instead of focusing on slides and animations, Prezi zooms in and out of text to reveal other words and phrases.