Making Slide Presentations

… a core concept in Communication Skills and Atlas109

Concept description

Slide presentations, often generically referred to as PowerPoint presentations after the dominant software, are a very common communications tool in public policy and public management.

Expectations may be different from those in other settings. For example, many recipients of policy and management slide presentations like to have hard or electronic copies distributed in advance.

Bardach’s advice

Here is the advice of Professor Eugene Bardach (reference below),

“PowerPoint slides often supplement oral presentations, and indeed sometimes replace written reports altogether as nonverbal means of communication. The latter practice does economize on staff time to some extent, but it has the drawback (in my eyes, at least) of forcing the reader to imagine the connective issue that oral presentations normally provides. In any case, my comments on PowerPoint as supplementation will be brief and rather personal, as plenty of full-scale manuals are available.

  • Keep it simple: have each slide present a separate point; use phrases, not sentences; and use only two or at most three colors.
  • Avoid cutesy icons and “cool” moving animals.
  • Think of the viewer’s needs: to see letters and numbers at a fair distance, and to not be bored by having you, as presenter, simply read what is on the screen.
  • Display the slide for long enough so that the viewer could actually read and absorb its contents—especially important for tables and graphs.
  • Include slides at suitable intervals that summarize what has been said so far and point the way to what is yet to come.
  • Make available to the audience, after the presentation—not during, as it is distracting—hard copies of slides (arranged six per page).
  • Visual supplements, such as photographs, can nicely support all the words, provided they are carefully chosen and displayed.” (p. 77-78)
Selected advice from the Internet

There are myriad advice blogs on using PowerPoint and other presentation software. Here are three that are applicable to the kinds of presentations that most MPP and MPA students are likely to be making. They include advice on presentation and speaking techniques in addition to the design of the slides.

Microsoft’s Tips for creating and delivering an effective presentation at, accessed 14 September 2017.

Jamie Cartwright’s (HubSpot) 14 PowerPoint Presentation Tips for Building More Creative Slideshows,, accessed 14 September 2017.

Brad Smith’s 37 Effective PowerPoint Presentation Tips, at–cms-25421, accessed 14 September 2017.


Eugene Bardach (2012), A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis – The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving, Fourth Edition, Sage, Los Angeles.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Persuading in Communication Skills and  Atlas109 Leadership and Communication Skills.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 14 September 2017.

Image: at, accessed 14 September 2017.