I never expected to make a career out of building executive presentations. When I went to college in the mid-1990s, I was a fine art major, much to my parents’ concern. But

A rule of thumb I build presentations by: Expect to talk or present for on average 2–3 minutes per slide. For example, if you plan on presenting for 50 minutes you should probably have roughly 15–25 slides. This may feel like a lot of talking and a lot more focus on you than on the deck itself, and that’s true. The audience is there to listen to the speaker, no matter how great your PowerPoint.

Text to Smart Art icons [Animation: courtesy of Microsoft]
Yet at the same time, you want the presentation itself to have meaning and utility, so it stands on its own. Balancing these forces is the eternal question—what should go on the actual deck versus the role of the speaker?

The answer is generally the well-known KISS rule. Break large chunks of information down to high-level text that just covers the topic, and then speak to the rest of it. And, keep it simple. Less is always more.

5. Stay current

You are the expert at what you plan to speak on, but that doesn’t mean you are an expert at creating presentations themselves. Thankfully, technology is making it easier for anyone to create compelling looking presentations without my level of experience. And, even for me, new features in PowerPoint have been a game changer.

I was out on maternity leave when Microsoft first released PowerPoint Designer and the Morph feature. I remember being backstage at my first major event after I came back to work, and someone saw me using the motion path tool and painfully line up my animations across the slide and asked why I wasn’t using Morph. I have to say that I was skeptical that it could work as well as my process of using builds, but it was a game changer for me. With Morph I can make objects animate and rotate around an axis in minutes. Before, it could take me a few hours.

The features I use most often include Reuse slides, text to icons and Morph. Reuse slides allows me to quickly add slides from recent decks all within PowerPoint, so I don’t need to start from scratch all the time. Text to icons is also a lifesaver since all I need to do is type a bulleted list and Designer will recommend icons that match, all in an effective and polished layout.