Presentation Tools

First of all, decide whether you need to use PowerPoint, another presentation tool such as Powtoon, VoiceThread, YouTube, or no tool at all. The tool you choose depends on a number of factors:

  • size of audience – if you have a very small audience, using PowerPoint or other presentation tools may seem too formal
  • need for visuals – if images will help your audience better understand your information, choose a presentation tool that can easily and clearly house those images
  • presentation context – is your presentation in-person?  Is your presentation virtual?  If virtual, is it real-time or asynchronous?
  • need for personalization – if you want to personalize in a virtual presentation, you may want to consider YouTube or a synchronous tool such as Skype or Zoom that allows your audience to see you as you present
  • expected format – if most presentations in your organization, or to outside organizations, usually occur in a certain medium, use that medium

Note that PowerPoint is very widely used professionally, but don’t choose PowerPoint just because of that fact.  Choose a presentation tool (or none) based on your purpose, audience, and context.  The rest of this page discusses a few very standard presentation tools that may be appropriate and useful to your presentations.  Realize that there are many more.


PowerPoint has been a standard presentation tool for decades.  With a market share of approximately 95 percent, PowerPoint is considered the industry standard for both business and education. PowerPoint supports over 100 languages and can be used on both Android and Mac devices. There are over 1 billion installations of PowerPoint worldwide, with 30 million presentations created daily.  Because it has been used so widely and for so long, if you determine that PowerPoint is the best tool for a presentation, your task will be to make it memorable, so that your audience doesn’t experience “death by PowerPoint.”  Here are some things to consider to create effective PowerPoint presentations:

  • a PowerPoint is not – emphasize not – just your text put onto a slide. Include visuals, charts, diagrams, etc. along with text
  • reduce text to main ideas – too much text is hard to read, and audiences cannot read and listen at the same time
  • make sure there is enough “white space” on slides so that they are not crammed with too much information
  • use a consistent, standard font, usually a sans serif (i.e., no decorative lines on the letters)
  • present written information using a font size that your audience can quickly read – no smaller than 20-30 point
  • current practice is moving away from PowerPoint’s pre-structured formats, and more toward blank slides, varied in their layout, to maintain audience interest
  • maintain a consistent color palette throughout your varied slide designs

The following videos provide tips for creating effective PowerPoint slides.

To emphasize the need to apply good design principles to PowerPoint slides, look at the following three files.

  1. The first example provides a student PowerPoint  based on a formal proposal.  The content is very good for a formal proposal but not for a PowerPoint, as it’s all text.
  2. The second example is a professional presentation which applies some of the design principles discussed, in terms of reducing information on the slides, but uses a standard format.
  3. The third example offers the same information as the second example, but designs and presents that information differently, using visuals and varying the format.

If you were in the audience for these presentations, which one would you want to hear/see?

Although the next video is intended as a sales video, it contains a useful discussion of pre-formatted vs. free-form PowerPoint slides, with examples.


YouTube can be used for more than entertainment or sales; it can be a useful presentation tool. You may choose to create a YouTube video as your presentation, or to use within a presentation, for a number of reasons:

  • to illustrate an overall process or procedure, to help your audience understand by actually seeing it
  • to illustrate a small, key step in a process or procedure
  • to vary a PowerPoint by inserting a video into the PowerPoint, to illustrate a process or procedure
  • to provide specific training when a video makes sense, given the focus of the training (e.g., customer service training – what and what not to do)
  • to personalize a virtual presentation and let your audience see and engage with you as the presenter

If you choose to use YouTube as a presentation tool, keep in mind some tips for creating effective YouTube videos in terms of content, delivery, and overall look of the video.


  • Keep it relatively short.  Videos over 4-5 minutes may lose viewers.
  • Plan your content carefully.  Let your viewers know what you will cover, and then move directly into your main ideas.  Write yourself a script to follow, using language that you’d normally use when speaking.
  • Emphasize key ideas by using language on the screen as well as visuals.


  • Even though it’s a good idea to write a script, practice your delivery so that it does not seem as though you’re reading from your script.
  • Speak clearly, and at an appropriate pace.
  • Use language appropriate for your audience.
  • Make sure that your sound is clear, without background noise.


  • Use a professional background.  Filming in your kitchen or living room, or in an office with other people passing in the hallway, may not present a professional image.
  • Consider lighting, so that your audience does not see reflections.
  • Create a video that’s interesting to view, with images, animations, charts, or any visuals appropriate to your audience and purpose.

View the following video to see an example of a short presentation whose purpose is to instruct.  What characteristics make it effective for you as a viewer?


Skype and Zoom are synchronous online tools.  Both allow you to hear and see your audience, share your desktop or presentation slides so that all participants can see, and maintain a written dialogue in a sidebar, which can complement the spoken dialogue.  Use Skype or Zoom if you want to include interaction and real-time discussion as part of your presentation to a geographically scattered audience.

Here are some tips for using Skype and Zoom:

  • Outline your purpose and key points so that you have them in front of you, since it’s up to you to administer and supervise the flow of the meeting.
  • As presenter, decide if and at exactly what points in the presentation you want to share your desktop or slides.
  • Set interaction expectations at the start, especially if you have a relatively large number of participants.  For example, ask people to write “hand” or “talk” in the chat when they want to contribute, and then include them in the order in which they asked.
  • Just as with a YouTube video, consider your background environment, lighting, and sound.  Especially when using Skype or Zoom, sign in early to adjust the camera angle on the computer so that your face shows appropriately.

The following video illustrates tips for using Skype or any other synchronous, online presentation tool.

Low-Tech Presentation Tools

If you are presenting in person, don’t forget various standard, low-tech presentation tools such as using a whiteboard, flip charts,  or handouts.

Whiteboard and Flip Charts

Use a whiteboard and/or flip charts if you need to record ideas, or want to emphasize key points.  Make sure to write legibly, and large enough so that your audience can easily read what you write.  It’s best to use a dark ink on white, and incorporate only one-two more colors if needed for emphasis.

If you use a whiteboard or flip charts, make sure that they are incidental to and not the focus of your presentation.  You want your audience to focus on you and the message you’re conveying.


The key questions related to handouts are whether to use them, and when to hand them out.  Is your presentation relatively simple or complex?  How many key points do you think your audience will retain on their own?  Ask and answer those questions to determine if you want to use handouts.

When considering when to provide a handout, you run the risk of your audience reading and not listening to/focusing on your presentation, and you invite distraction noise caused by audience members rifling through your handout, if you hand information out before or at the start of your presentation.  If you hand out information at the end, you run the risk of not getting that information to all audience members, you invite some disruption by having audience members stand up to take photos of your slides with their phones during your presentation, and you lose the chance to explain concepts more fully by referring them to a certain page on your handout. Determine what type of information your audience needs and when they need it in order to decide whether and when to provide handouts.

If you have never worked with PowerPoint or YouTube

Here are a few useful videos for beginners, from