Reader Questions: How Do You Bring PowerPoint Files Down to a Smaller File Size?

“by Nolan Haims, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP”

Bringing PowerPoint Files Down to Size

Hard drive capacities, cloud storage, and bandwidth keep increasing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we can or should let our PowerPoint files increase in size unchecked.

Text, vectors (such as .svg and emf content) and animation won’t add much to your file size—in fact, I’ve seen 100-slide decks without any images take up just a couple of megabytes—but photos and video can quickly balloon the size of your presentations if you don’t take care.


You can begin to control file size by choosing smaller images, to begin with before inserting them into PowerPoint. JPEGs will generally be smaller than PNGs (but always use PNGs for logos and detailed illustrations), and presentations designed to be printed or shown on extremely high definition screens will want higher res images. I won’t go into all the technical details of pixel size here but will say that the easiest thing to do to make sure your image has enough resolution is to place it in your presentation and project or print it and judge quality with your own eyes. Unfortunately, this will tell you if it’s big enough, but not if it is larger than it needs to be.

And so, you may find yourself in a situation of wanting to reduce the size of your images after they have been placed in PowerPoint. The easiest solution is to select the image in question and then select “Compress Pictures” from the Format tab (or Picture Format tab on the Mac). Here you’ll find options for compressing the image at different levels of quality as well as checkboxes for deleting cropped areas of pictures and compressing ALL the images in the file or just the selected one.

You’re free to make use of PowerPoint’s built-in compression tools, but be warned that they’re just not very good in my opinion. In the words of my friends at SlideRabbit, PowerPoint’s compression tools are more like a hatchet rather than a scalpel. The compression results in clunky sometimes over-pixelized images. And once you compress everything, there’s no going back, so be sure you have made a backup of your file first.

NXPowerlite to the Rescue

If Microsoft’s tools are a hatchet, then the scalpel you want comes from a company called Neuxpower in the form of NXPowerlite—hands down the best compression software for Microsoft Office that there is. NXPowerlite comes in a few different forms for Mac, PC, desktop, enterprise, etc. It is not expensive and entirely worth the investment if you spend your days creating presentations. How it works I have no idea, but I can say that I use it all the time and the results are magical. The interface is drag and drop, and it is all very well thought out. I’ve seen 100MB files filled with images compressed down to 5MB with no visible loss of image quality. I should note that while it is compressing images, it is also compressing the PowerPoint file itself, removing old and redundant code and other items. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy here.


While you can insert YouTube videos onto slides (PC-only) or even just hyperlinks to nonYouTube videos, in general, I recommend embedding videos as you never know when internet access will be spotty or unavailable. None of the above tools will help with compressing video, and unless you want to compress your videos outside of PowerPoint (by re-encoding them using video software), your only solution is to head to PowerPoint’s “backstage” File tab: Info and select “Compress Media.” Here you’ll be given options for levels of compression. In my experience, PowerPoint’s video compression is a bit better than the image compression, but you’ll just have to experiment and judge the results for yourself.

Final Tips and Tricks

Every once in a while, compression will still fail to reduce file size enough for your needs. In these cases, you can actually unpack a PowerPoint file by changing the file extension to .zip, unzipping it and navigating to the media folder to search through all the image and video assets used by the file. If you discover a 20MB image somewhere, you can target just that one item.

And if you find yourself expending time and energy trying to keep file sizes down, take a step back and ask if it is worth the hassle. If your file is too large to be included as an email attachment, you can always make use of services like WeTransfer, Hightail and Box to transfer large files to others. My typical workflow is to keep presentation files in Dropbox folders and then simply send a download link to clients for items that are too large for email.

Don’t forget to register for my free webinar on Wednesday, February 15 in which we’ll discuss much more about using imagery in your presentations.

About Nolan:

Nolan runs Nolan Haims Creative, a visual communications and design consultancy that help organizations and individuals tell more effective stories with fewer words. As a Vice President and Director of Presentation for Edelman, he created and ran a department dedicated to raising the bar on visual communications and ensuring the firm showed up differently at pitches. During his tenure with Edelman, he oversaw nearly 500 high-stakes new business pitches as the firm grew by 64%. As a designer and art director, he has created high-end presentations for Fortune 500 CEOs, leading financial institutions, top foundations, and all the major television networks. Nolan trains organizations to think visually and to create and give more effective presentations. He speaks at national conferences and writes extensively on visual storytelling including at his own site, Microsoft has recognized him as one of only 11 PowerPoint MVPs in the U.S for his contributions to the presentation community.


How to Embed Fonts In Your Presentation


One of the most popular question asked by our attendees during our Laura Foley webinar on May 18th was, “How do you embed fonts in a presentation.” Laura liked the question so much that she provided a more detailed answer.  Enjoy!

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You can use beautiful font types that make a statement when you create your presentations. But, if the audience doesn’t have the same font installed on their computers, it will not display correctly and PowerPoint substitutes a similar font. How do I embed fonts in a presentation so I can fix this?

Laura FoleyLaura Foley

Why embedding fonts is a great idea…

Using non-standard fonts in your presentations makes them stand out. With the right fonts, presentations can look fresh and modern (even if the non-typographically inclined can’t exactly figure out why). But you’ll know why…it’s because you took the initiative to spend a few minutes locating and installing a fresh-looking font!

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Calibri, the humanist sans-serif typeface so familiar to users of Microsoft calibiri noOffice. But everybody’s using it, so if you are too then your presentations might look the same as everyone else’s. Here’s how to stand out from the crowd.

Calibri, you’ve overstayed your welcome.

In The Incredibles, the main villain, Syndrome, declares, “When everyone’s super, no-one will be!” It’s the same with Calibri. When everybody uses it, it ceases to be special. So if your presentations feature Calibri, which was once fresh and new, then they look like millions of other presentations. That whole “blending in with the crowd” thing might work for some people. But if you’ve read this far, I’m confident that you’re not satisfied with going with the flow. It’s time to customize your presentations with a non-standard font.

Google, your main source for awesome fonts!

There are loads of websites where you can find free fonts. Ignore them all and head right on over to Google Fonts. Here, you’ll find well-thought-out font families that contain boldface, italics, ligatures and all kinds of amazing typographical goodies. But the main thing is that here you will find a typeface that 10 billion other PowerPoint users AREN’T using. Oh, and did I mention they’re all free?


1. Follow the instructions on Google Fonts to download your chosen font.
2. Unzip the file
3. Double click on the .TTF file.
4. Click on Install

These are the steps I follow to install fonts on my PC. Your operating system might be different, so if this doesn’t work for you then you’ll need to look up how to install fonts on your own PC.

Embedding a font in your PowerPoint presentation

It’s very easy to embed fonts into individual presentations. By embedding the fonts, you ensure that they will look the same when opened on other systems even if they don’t have your custom font installed.

  1. Click on the File tab in the ribbon then select Options.
  2. Click Save on the left side of the dialog box that appears.
  3. Under Preserve fidelity when sharing this presentation on the right, put a check next to Embed fonts in the file then choose Embed only the characters used in the presentation (best of reducing file size) or Embed all characters (best for editing by other people).
  4. Click OK and continue saving normally.


The bad news for Mac users

The Mac version of PowerPoint doesn’t allow you to embed fonts. I guess it’s just too complicated to ensure that embedded PC fonts display the same on a Mac and vice versa.

About Laura Foley:
As the Cheater of Death by PowerPoint, Laura Foley provides training and presentation design services to help people communicate their ideas and be better presenters. She has worked with Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, General Dynamics, Juniper Networks, Harvard Business School, DST, Eloqua, EMC, TE Connectivity, and VMware and has conducted training sessions at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Simmons College, the Central Mass Business Expo, and the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. Her speaking engagements include HOW Design Live, the largest conference for creative professionals in the world. A graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Laura has over two decades’ experience in presentation design, marketing, and copywriting. She lives in Central Massachusetts with her husband and two sons. Laura serves as Cubmaster and Den Leader for Hubbardston Cub Scouts Pack 12. It’s like herding cats, but more rewarding.



Webinar Wrap-Up: More Q & A with Laura Foley

In our May 18th webinar, Cheating Death by PowerPoint with presentation designer Laura Foley, the questions were coming faster than we could share them with both Laura and the attendees. Our presenter was kind enough to answer many of the webinar questions so we could share them with you.

To watch the webinar and get the handouts, click here

Do you have any tips for a “welcome” slide that might be used during opening speeches, etc. but not actually referenced directly?

It’s always a good idea to have your organization’s logo, the name of your presentation, your name and your contact information on your opening slide. Repeat this at the end of the presentation so people know how to get in touch with you if they have questions.  See example below:

CDbyPPT-From Awful to Awesome

Do you have font recommendations? Including size

Think of a slide as a billboard. If you have to slow down to read it, then the type is too small. While I have no set and fast rule for point sizes of type on a slide, I try to make the text very large so that people can read it no matter how far away from the screen they may be.

I notice you use a lot of Orange against a white background. Has this combination been proven successful or just your preference?

It’s one of my corporate colors.

How do you work with (around?) a mandatory company template or one that is a very generic company background?

I use the typeface and colors specified in the template, but I’ll usually never use the established text boxes and bullet points. I prefer to use very large text on a slide and no bullet points. Also, you can make text bold, italic, or all caps to give it many different looks while still using the same typeface.

Are gradients opportunity or threat?

Now that flat design is the rage, I don’t use as many gradients. When I do, they’re very subtle. Any gradient and highlight that makes a graphic look three-dimensional or glasslike also make it look dated.

Could you comment on using company logos and names, etc. in the footer?

Do it if the client demands it. Otherwise, you can just use it at the beginning and the end of the presentation. By deleting the standard header and footer, you free up a lot more slide real estate to be used for information.

What do you think about decorative themes? For example, if we create a title slide that looks like a movie poster (maybe an ocean theme to discuss a “deep dive” into a subject)…do you think keeping ocean imagery on every slide is cohesive and engaging, or purely decorative and distracting?

There’s nothing wrong with being creative with your slides. But if the theme is as you suggest a “deep dive,” that’s just another way of saying an in-depth view of a subject. I wouldn’t carry the “deep dive” analogy through every slide, maybe just the title. Make sure that the design of your slide reflects the content of the presentation, not the type of presentation it is.

What is the best font to use for numbers (like in charts)?

The same typeface that is standard for the template you’re using.

What are your thoughts on using custom (non-standard) fonts?

It’s amazing! Your presentations will look different from everyone else’s, which helps make them memorable. For more ideas, and step-by-step instructions on how to do it, click here.

About Laura Foley:
As the Cheater of Death by PowerPoint, Laura Foley provides training and presentation design services to help people communicate their ideas and be better presenters. She has worked with Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, General Dynamics, Juniper Networks, Harvard Business School, DST, Eloqua, EMC, TE Connectivity, and VMware and has conducted training sessions at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Simmons College, the Central Mass Business Expo, and the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. Her speaking engagements include HOW Design Live, the largest conference for creative professionals in the world. A graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Laura has over two decades’ experience in presentation design, marketing, and copywriting. She lives in Central Massachusetts with her husband and two sons. Laura serves as Cubmaster and Den Leader for Hubbardston Cub Scouts Pack 12. It’s like herding cats, but more rewarding.

The Two-Minute $250,000 Presentation

Could you persuade someone to donate a quarter of a million dollars in 120 seconds?

Last year one of our clients was in this situation. He shared his story with me last week while I was leading a workshop for his nonprofit staff. Here’s the backstory. The nonprofit director was rejected multiple times by this prospective donor, a local senior business executive. Not just rejected, but he was told very frankly by the executive that meeting was a waste of time.

With persistence, the nonprofit director sent out a final Hail Mary:

“Give me 15 minutes of your time. The first 10 minutes you can tell me all the reasons you don’t want to donate and the last 5 minutes I get to share with you what we’re all about.”

Miracle number one: A meeting was scheduled.

When the time came, the executive shared his disdain for nonprofits that don’t actually fix problems — organizations that don’t offer holistic long-term solutions. The nonprofit director sat respectfully, honoring his commitment to listen for 10 minutes.

But 10 turned into 13 and now he only had 2 minutes – 120 seconds – to make his case.

In those 120 seconds he passionately talked about how the nonprofit met the gritty, deep and complex needs of the homeless. Shelter, food, mentoring, resources for addicts, long-term housing, training…

So let me ask you the quarter-million dollar question: How well can you articulate your own value?

To the prospective client that’s been in the pipeline for years? To the venture capitalists  in your final round of crowd funding for your new business? To your manager, or their manager, or their manager? Maybe you’re not raising funds. Maybe it’s a new idea, a new product, or a potential partnership.

Could you effectively persuade them in 120 seconds?

Here’s the two-minute game plan:

1. Clearly articulate your value.

How is your solution fixing a problem or filling a need?

2. Clearly articulate how your solution is better than others.

Differentiate yourself from competitors! Know why you’re the better solution.

3. Be passionate.

Your audience is perceptive. If you lack conviction and passion, they will too.

And in 120 seconds, miracle number two happened.

The demeanor of the executive changed. His skepticism faded, his expression warmed, and he thanked the nonprofit director for coming.

Weeks later they got a check for $250,000. Miracle number three.

Truth is, these aren’t really miracles. The nonprofit director’s persistence, passion, and ability to articulate the value of his organization sealed the deal.

About the Author:

Amy Wolff is a coach and trainer with Distinction Communication Inc, a Newberg, OR consulting firm specializing in message development, presentation design and delivery skills coaching. For more information about the company, visit

Converting 1-on-1 Sales Pitches for Conference Presentations

You have a sales presentation that – despite the fact that it is loaded with bullet points – has been very successful in 1-on-1 meetings with customers. Now you have an invitation to speak at a conference for an audience of more than 100 people for a maximum of 20 minutes. What next? Here is a recipe.

1) Trim down the content. In the conference audience are competitors, analysts, journalists, all kind of people that might not be suitable to receive the ins and outs you would discuss with a prospective customer. Remember, the object of a conference presentation is not to close a deal, it is to tease people into calling/emailing you to set up a first meeting.

2) Flatten the story. Take out overview/summary slides, and spread them out: one slide covers one bullet. We want a story, not a structured table of contents of a business school text book.

3) Beef up the “problem” section of your presentation to let the audience connect with the issue you are trying to solve. The problem might be totally obvious to you and 60% of the audience. The other 39% is not there yet.

4) Avoid repetition. If you talk early on in the presentation about how highly accurate your product is, group that together with the slide in the back that shows test data confirming accuracy.

5) Find big bold visuals that support your points (one point per slide). Stretch images to a full page size, and cut text.

6) Take out any live demos or demonstrations

7) Use your videos (if you have them), BUT only if you can integrate them seamlessly in your presentation flow. Embed it and test it 300 times to make sure there are no technical glitches. Think where you want to insert the videos. Videos are excellent wake up calls, so anticipate where in your story the audience runs the risk of getting bored.

8) Practice, practice, practice, until you can deliver the whole talk in 15-17 out of the allocated 20 minutes.

Good luck!

About the Author:Jan Schultink is a presentation designer with a decade of experience as a CEO strategy consultant with McKinsey & Company. Besides his design work at Idea Transplant, Jan is CEO of Pitchera, a new web-based presentation app that has set itself the ambition of becoming a “PowerPoint killer.” For more from Jan’s blog, click here.


Do You Really Need to Give A Presentation?

I have quite a few clients who come to me with presentations that are completely encased in PowerPoint. That is, everything that needs to be said is delineated on the slides, either in bullets, graphs or actual word-for-word paragraphs.

Frequently, these clients are themselves perplexed about why a meeting or presentation is necessary, when all they’re doing is reporting numbers or giving updates that could easily be e-mailed in a brief report. Especially when a presentation is delivered by webinar to people spread around in distant offices and there’s no live gathering of people in the same room: Could the same goals be achieved by delivering material another way?

Maybe they don’t have a choice, but do you?

Are you the one calling an information-transfer meeting concerning data that could easily be e-mailed to others in a document?

Here are some questions to ask when you’re considering scheduling a live presentation:

1. Is there a human element necessary to give context to the numbers on the slides? Are there stories or analysis behind the data that a person needs to speak about that can’t be otherwise written in a report?

2. Is there a purpose to the meeting beyond the mere transfer of information, like brainstorming or group decision-making that will be based on the data in the slides?

3. Are there objectives and action items that will be addressed? Are there specific results that are expected to come from the meeting?

4. Is there a persuasive element to the presentation where a live speaker is necessary to convince and convey the importance of the material to the group?

If you answer “no” to all of these questions, then please send your material by e-mail, and don’t waste your group’s time making them sit and listen to a speaker who is simply repeating the information on slides that the audience is looking at on a monitor — or worse — already holding in printouts.

If your group can look at the material on its own, at its convenience, and respond in an appropriate time frame to the necessary colleagues, isn’t this a better use of everyone’s time?

About the Author:

Lisa Braithwaite is a public speaking coach and trainer based in Santa Barbara, CA, and author of the Speak Schmeak blog. For more information, visit

The One Presentation Skill That Anchors Them All

I remember my first big speaking engagement with the International Association of Business Communicators.  It took place over a decade ago in Vancouver, British Columbia, and like any trip across the border, it involved a brief chat with a uniformed agent in the customs booth.

What would happen next would remind me once again about one of the most important presentation skills we can master.

As I stood patiently in line behind a hundred foreign exchange students, my mind began to wander through my opening comments in a few short hours.  My goal with this large group: be intentional about making a very personal connection.  This can seem like a daunting task at times.

But suddenly I was shaken out of my thoughts by a rather foreboding customs official giving me her well-practiced “come now” gesture. I slid my documents through the window and then it happened.  The same thing that has happened dozens of times before…but somehow my awareness level had been elevated in that moment.

Her eyes came up, met mine and then she began to ask me some questions (A few seconds felt like an eternity).  And in those moments I came face-to-face with one of her most practiced and job-essential skill sets – discerning truthfulness.  She was a trained professional in the art.  She didn’t look at my hands.  She didn’t see if my feet were shuffling.

She looked me straight in the eyes.

We may not be professionally trained at this lie-detector skill, but we’ve come by it quite naturally – every one of us.  And over the thousands of times we’ve asked our workshop attendees how they discern trust and believability in someone they’re seeing for the first time, the #1 most consistent answer is through the presenter’s eyes.

(A great case study…. observe Lance Armstrong’s eyes during his Oprah interview.  Watch at 5:38… “And I am sorry for that.”  Really?)

And why should you care if from time to time your eyes seem to bounce around the room?  Because at the heart of every important communication opportunity is this very simple truth:

If someone cannot trust you, why should they trust what you have to say?

In my 20 years of personal skills coaching, there are typically 4 reasons people struggle with this very important foundational skill:

  1. We’re creatures of habit and it takes less mental (and personal) energy to simply scan a room. It also helps us stay in our own heads to get the message right.
  2. Sometimes a bad experience or a result of unhealthy human interactions greatly impact someone’s personal comfort level.
  3. Simple brain mechanics are in play as a presenter’s eyes disengage (drop to the floor) as their brain buys time to think what’s coming next (usually accompanied by a series of umms or ahhs).
  4. Cultural issues can cause eyes to drop as a sign of respect – but carry a very different perception in North America.

Although these are all very real issues, the people on the other end of your presentations only know what they perceive in that moment.  Your personal history, bad experiences or even cultural upbringing really don’t matter. All they know is something doesn’t feel right.

And at the heart of most of these habits is a ‘presentation mode’ we’ve forged over decades. Well-entrenched. Deeply ingrained. And over time they feel like a comfortable pair of shoes.

Gone  is the warm, engaging eye contact we may have exhibited with others in our offices (or Starbucks) minutes earlier.  We become instantly detached in front of a group.  Mechanical.  And our evasive eyes send messages our audience must now struggle to reconcile.

Here’s one simple piece of advice….

Turn every presentation opportunity into a series of 1-on-1 conversations no matter what the group size; communicating to one set of eyes for 3-4 seconds, then another… then another.

For a great example of this skill, check out a TED Talks video of Jane McGonigal. Although she’s presenting to an audience of hundreds, her great eye communication makes it a personal and engaging experience for her audience… and we trust her and what she has to say to us.

You see, without trust you have no influence. Without trust there is no relationship. Without trust you have no chance to persuade or inspire.  And trust is built first and foremost through our eyes.

Now you know why it’s the one critical presentation skill that anchors them all.

About the Author:

Jim Endicott is president of Distinction Communication Inc, a Newberg, OR consulting firm specializing in message development, presentation design and delivery skills coaching. For more information about the company, visit

4 Tips For Handling Mixed Presentation Audiences

As a savvy presenter, you find out as much as possible about your audience members before you address them. What do they already know about the topic?  What do they need to know?  What do they want to know? Will they be receptive or reluctant to hear what you have to say? You plan accordingly.

But almost nothing calls for more planning than a mixed audience—both technical and nontechnical decision makers, beginners and advanced learners, or groups of amateurs peppered with professionals.

Consider the following tips when you present to such diverse groups.

1)  Engage the advanced without insulting the less knowledgeable.

Make it your goal to aim for the higher end of the spectrum.  That is, plan content to interest the seasoned audience members. Their engagement and participation will interest the less knowledgeable because those audience members have even more to learn.

The beginners don’t yet know what they don’t know; therefore, almost all topics and discussion interests them. They are like the proverbial sponge soaking up all that transpires. Yet, take care that you don’t insult beginners and amateurs by locking them out of the presentation with jargon and references to other resources, tools, and processes with which they’re unfamiliar. So how do you do that?  Next tip …

2) Provide shortcuts. 

When you need to deliver complex information that will only confuse and lose the less experienced in a group, consider providing that more technical content in a truncated fashion: Can you provide it on a handout? Mobile download?  Reference to a website link?  Does the technical process, specification, or explanation really need “air” time?

3) Prefer clarity to brevity.

Brevity is good; clarity is better. Never sacrifice a few words or sentences in order to be brief. Slide screen space, paper, and air are cheap. Misunderstandings that lead to errors can be expensive. If you need to define a term, do so.  If you need to add a detail, add it.  If you need to use the whole phrase rather than the acronym, use it.

4) Use—don’t abuse—their experience.

Forcing advanced learners to sit through an elementary explanation wastes their time and causes them to disengage quickly. Instead, acknowledge and engage the more seasoned people in your group by giving them opportunity to share their expertise with the less experienced.

When you make a point, call on them to share a case study or ask them to elaborate on how they’ve applied this principle, strategy, or truth  in their own work.  In a teaching session, pair the advanced with the less skilled learners to pass on additional teaching points and tips to extend the learning.

Handling a widely diverse audience can be a challenge.  But with forethought and creativity, the outcome can be stimulating for all.

About the Author:

Dianna Booher works with organizations to increase their productivity and effectiveness through better communication: writing skills, presentation skills, interpersonal communication, and client communication. An expert in executive communication and a keynote speaker, she is the author of 46 books, published in 23 languages. For more information, visit

Presentation or Interrogation? Speaking to Senior Management

Sit in on a series of presentations to senior management in many organizations and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a courtroom or a congressional hearing.

One person after another goes to the front of the room with a carefully prepared message, gets through a few opening remarks, and then gets derailed by questions, observations or demands that they skip to slides the managers want to address immediately.

In most presentations this wouldn’t happen — at least as fast as it does with senior managers — because the audience members would be seeing the presentation for the first time. They would need to listen to it for at least a short while and get a sense of where it’s going.

But senior executives routinely get an opportunity to see slide decks before they are presented. They can look them over and decide what parts they most want to engage.

Stopping this dynamic altogether is not realistic. Senior managers are not inclined to sit quietly with their hands folded while presenters go through their material. They’re used to taking the initiative and moving right to their priorities.

So here are some tips for presenting to senior management that will increase the odds of your success:

1) Start strong with an introduction that grabs attention and establishes immediate momentum (slow, indecisive starts encourage interruptions)

2) Front load the presentation with the conclusion and promise a valuable explanation of how it was arrived at (get right to the point)

3) Answer questions before they are asked (be pre-emptive)

4) Stay out of the weeds and speak at a strategic level that matches that of the managers.

Create an ‘Executive Version’ of Your Presentation

In addition to these four wise moves, it’s also smart to create an “executive version” of your presentation. An executive version contains only the most essential slides. If the senior managers have fallen behind on their agenda and want to jump through your presentation even quicker than normal, you can maintain control by verbally noting their compressed time and going straight to your short deck.

The bonus value of using an executive deck is that it enables you to avoid the anxious rush that can come from trying to get through a longer deck in the face of senior manager impatience. With an executive deck, you can “own” the little bit of time you have been given. The result: a confident image.

About the Author:

Reprinted with permission from BRODY Professional Development, featuring presentation skills advice from senior BRODY facilitator Bill Steele. For more information on this program and other presentation skills training, visit

What to Do if Your Presentation Bombs

Let’s face it – you can’t hit every presentation out of the ballpark. What do you do if your presentation bombed? I don’t mean in your mind it bombed. I mean it unquestionably, without-a-doubt bombed, and you’ve got the feedback forms to prove it.

How do you recover from a bad presentation?

Stop beating yourself up. A bad presentation traumatizes. My clients tell me stories of bad speaking experiences that happened one year, five years or even 10 years ago. From that time, they started avoiding presentations like Adam Sandler movies (which historically traumatize movie goers everywhere).

That’s far too long to be hanging on to a bad experience. Speaking is like falling off a bicycle – you’ve got to get right back on. When you’ve screwed up a presentation, it does no good to ruminate about how much you suck.

Get back on that bike and start figuring out how you can rock it out next time. When you are asked to speak, say a resounding, “YES!” instead of slinking off resolved never to speak again. If Adam Sandler can keep making craptastic movies, surely you can give another speech.

Presentation autopsy. Grim, dark — and time for a bit of brutal honesty. The upside of giving a presentation that sucked is it’s a great learning opportunity.

Now ask yourself, “Did I do everything in my power to prepare for this presentation”? Did the words, “I can totally wing this,” ever fall from your lips? Here are several digging-in-the-dirt questions to ask yourself:

1) Did I really understand my audience? Did I know what they believed about my topic? Did I meet their expectations? Did I answer these three questions about the audience?

2) Was I clear on the goal of my presentation? Did I have a BIG IDEA statement? Did I begin the presentation with the end in mind?

3) Did I know my stuff?

4) Did I practice my presentation? If you need help with practicing techniques, download my guide to practicing your presentation, located in the right column of my home page

5) Did you know how you were going to close the presentation?

6) Was I prepared for the audience’s questions?

7) How was my delivery? Polished or rough or somewhere in between?

Be honest. Giving yourself feedback will help improve your next presentation and increase the odds of success.

Bad Presentations Happen To Good People. Realize that bad presentations do happen to good speakers and amazing people. Sometimes you can do all of your homework, be clear on your big idea statement, practice, know your material backwards and forwards and still the presentation misses the  mark.

Once I was invited to give a presentation on cultural trends. I worked closely with the meeting planner. In fact, she approved every slide I was going to present. This was an executive-level audience and she wanted the content to be perfect. I researched, I prepped, I practiced, I had great examples.

Five minutes into my presentation, one executive raised his hand and asked “Are these trends based on quantitative research?” My reply was, “No, they are qualitative cultural trends.” He and half the room tuned out. The presentation flopped. My mistake was basing my whole speech on information from one person. That question killed me and there was no way to save the presentation in the moment.

Looking back, I see that I could have reached out to some of the executives as part of my preparation instead of leaning on the meeting planner. Great lesson. Now it’s time to move on.

I recovered. You can too when your presentation sucks. The most important point is: Keep speaking. Learn from your mistakes and don’t let them hold you back.

About the Author:

Dr. Michelle Mazur is a speech coach and presentation skills trainer who guides driven-to-succeed business professionals and independent business owners to ignite the smoldering fire within to speak up, speak out and make their impact – one compelling presentation at a time. For more information, visit

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