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PowerPoint Best Practices for Keeping Audience Attention

June 16, 2014 / Blog audience attention, award-winning PowerPoint designs, PowerPoint best practices

There is no such thing as an attention span. There is only the quality of what you are viewing.  This whole idea of an attention span is, I think, a misnomer. People have an infinite attention span if you are entertaining them.” – Jerry Seinfeld

The primary goal in delivering a presentation is to get the core message across. Then, hopefully, your audience will respond accordingly (consider your pitch, make a purchase, apply what they’ve learn from you, etc.). Your call to action, however, is only as effective as your efforts to capture and maintain audience attention for the entire presentation.

We can’t say if we totally agree with Jerry Seinfeld’s view on the existence of attention span. On the average, Internet videos are viewed for only 2.7 minutes before the user moves on to another video or website. With that, it isn’t hard to imagine what the stats are in terms of live presentations that offer no “stop” or “next” button for you to click.

He has a point, however, when it comes to what holds the audience’s attention – the quality of what they are viewing. So, to ensure the quality of your presentation, below are some PowerPoint best practices that you may want to keep in mind:

One message, one slide

Accept the fact that not all people can retain chunks of new, unrelated information at a time. So avoid overstuffing your presentation. To let your audience see your key points at a glance, each slide should have one very short sentence that stands out.

If an audience member was only able to pay attention to those sentences, he or she will still go home with an understanding of your key points.

Writing one message per slide also allows you to keep track of your overall narrative easily. This is because every slide gives you a logical summary of each point you’re trying to make.

Show more, tell less

Studies have proven that many of us are visual learners. This means that there are people who retain information better when it is displayed in front of them, as opposed to simply hearing it.

One of the most important PowerPoint best practices to remember is to choose relevant images and insert them appropriately in your slides. With appropriately, we mean not adding photos or graphics just for the heck of it.

Make sure that the images are relevant, support your points, and do not clutter a slide’s layout.

Essentials in, surplus out

Most award-winning PowerPoint designs have one thing in common – simplicity. Their designers had the good sense to know which items to omit and which ones to include.

This is important because for one thing, it keeps your slides from being too cluttered. This practice also gives you the opportunity to display your expertise on your subject by talking about it in as spontaneous manner as possible – not by merely reading about it from the slides. Having your entire message displayed on the slides won’t exactly add to your credibility or to the success of your presentation.

Your PowerPoint should provide you with support. Remember, it’s a tool, and you are the messenger (not the other way around).



Visual Teaching Alliance. Accessed June 16, 2014.
Attention Span Statistics.” Statistic Brain. Accessed June 16, 2014.
Steinberg, Brian. “Questions For… Jerry Seinfeld.” WSJ. Accessed June 16, 2014.