The Ultimate Guide on How to Avoid “Death by PowerPoint”

6 min readMay 11, 2020


Here’s what you need to know:

  • 5 key ideas to simplify your PowerPoint.
  • Use better presentation tools.
  • Use both visual and audio data to engage with your audience.
  • Send out readings or play a game before your talk to get people thinking.
  • Create group exercises to refresh your audience.
  • Sometimes, a prop is as good a visualization as a digital slide on the screen.

Death from PowerPoint

There are approximately 30 million PowerPoint presentations being given each day. PowerPoint has become such an essential part of a presentation that we can’t really fathom presenting without one.

Yet, we have all fallen victim to death by PowerPoint in our professional life. We can vividly remember going through numerous dreadful and tedious PowerPoint presentations, secretly wishing for your time back. It has become the subject of a well received stand-up comedy. In an extreme case, death by PowerPoint kills, literally. As David Ogilvy, the Father of Advertising, once said: “most people use PowerPoint like a drunk uses a lamppost — for support rather than for illumination.”

But how do you create a presentation that illuminates your audience and avoid death by PowerPoint? If you want you — and your message — to stand out, challenge yourself to try some of these ideas.

Simplify your PowerPoint

David JP Phillips, a renowned presentation skills training coach, international speaker, and author, gives a Ted talk about how to avoid death by PowerPoint. In his talk, he lays out 5 keys ideas to simplify your PowerPoint and make it attracting to your the audience. Those are:

  • Only one message per slide
    If there are more than one message, then the audience would have to divert their attention to each message and reduce their focus.
  • Use contrast and size to steer focus
    Big and contrasting objects are more visible to the audience, so employ them to steer the audience focus.
  • Avoid showing text and speaking at the same time
    The redundancy would make the audience forget both what you say and what is shown on the PowerPoint
  • Use dark background
    Using dark background for your PowerPoint would shift the focus to you, the presenter. The slides should only be a visual aid and not the focus.
  • Only 6 objects per slide
    It’s the magical number. Anything more than 6 would require drastic cognitive energy from your audience to process.
David JP Phillips’s TED talk about death by PowerPoint

Use Interactive Presentation Software

Humans evolve to process visual and not text. In fact, the human brain can processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Therefore, fill your presentations with visual data to achieve maximum effect.

You may be used to preparing your presentation in PowerPoint, but it won’t produce the eye-catching effect you desire. Instead, it’s worth checking out the new generation of presentation software that maximizes the visual experience.

AhaSlides is a cloud-based interactive presentation software that sheds the static, linear approach to presenting. Not only does it offer a more visually dynamic flow of ideas, it also provides interactive elements keep your audience engaged. Your audience can access your presentation through their mobile devices and play quizzes, vote on real-time polling, or send questions to your Q&A session.

Tips: You can import your PowerPoint presentation onto AhaSlides, so that you don’t have to start again from scratch.

Engage through All the Senses

Some are audio learners, while others are visual learners. Therefore, you should engage with your audience through all the senses with photos, sound, music, videos, and other media illustrations.

Furthermore, incorporating social media into your presentations is also a good strategy. Posting during a presentation is proven to help the audience engage with the presenter and retain the content.

You can add a slide with your contact information on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn at the beginning of your presentation.

Tips: With AhaSlides, you can insert a hyperlink that your audience can click on their mobile devices. This makes it so much easier for you to connect with your audience.

Put Your Audience in an Active Stance

Get people thinking and talking even before you say your first word.

Send out a light reading or play a fun ice breaker to create audience engagement. If your presentation involves abstract concepts or complex ideas, you can define them before hand so your audience would be on the same level as you when you present.

Create a hashtag for your presentation, so your audience send any questions they may have, or use AhaSlides’ Q&A feature for your convenience.

Maintain the Attention

A study by Microsoft suggests that our attention span lasts only 8 seconds. So blasting your audience with a typical 45-minute talk followed by a brain-numbing Q&A session is not going to cut it for you. If you want to keep people involved, you have to diversify the audience engagement.

Create group exercises, get people talking, and constantly refresh your audience’s mind. Sometimes, it is best to give your audience some time to reflect. Silence is golden. Have audience members reflect upon your content, or spend a bit of time coming up with well-worded questions.

Give (Brief) Handouts

Handouts have gotten a bad rap, partly because of how dull and awfully long they usually are. But if you use them wisely, they can be your best friend in the presentation.

You should keep your handout as brief as possible. Strip it of all irrelevant information, and save only the most crucial takeaways. Set aside some whitespace for your audience to take notes. Include any important graphics, charts, and images to support your ideas.

Do this properly and you can get your audience’s sole attention as they don’t have to listen and jot down your ideas at the same time.

Use Props

Visualizing your presentation with a prop. As mentioned above, some people are visual learners, so having a prop would enhance their experience with your presentation.

A notable example about the effective use of prop is this TED talk below. Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard brain scientist who had suffered a life altering stroke, donned latex gloves and used a real human brain to demonstrate what happened to her.

Using props might not be relevant to all the cases, but this example shows that sometimes using a physical object can be more impactful than any computer slide.

Final Words

It is easy to fall prey to death by PowerPoint. Hopefully with these ideas, you will be able to avoid the most common mistakes in creating a PowerPoint presentation. Here at AhaSlides, it is our aim to provide an intuitive platform for you to organize your ideas in a dynamic and interactive way and captivate your audience.

Try AhaSlides for Free Now!

#engagingpresentation #interactivepresentationsoftware #interactivepresentations #prepareforpresentation #presentationcontent #presentationskills #successfulpresentation




AhaSlides, the online interactive presentation tool created to turn you — the speaker — into the real star on stage. Website: