5 Design Principles that Will Enhance your Presentations

(or How to Avoid Death by PowerPoint)

David Phillips is entertaining, and he provides some excellent advice. Are you listening, SHS Class of ’16? These thoughtful pointers will be excellent at making your senior project PowerPoints even better. Here is the short list from Mr. Phillips’ research.

One Message

Have one message per slide. This enables your audience to focus on the main idea. Mentally digesting one idea before being required to endure a second increases your audience’s takeaway.

Working Memory

Never display sentences at the same time as you are speaking. Your audience does not have the working memory to deal with more. 1 + 1 = 0. When the audience tries to focus on more than one thing, they forget 90% of what was said and shown. Researchers call this the redundancy effect.


Motion. Signaling. Contrast-rich. Big. These are the only four things your brain will focus on the rest of your natural life. Reduce the size of slide titles and increase the size of the bullet points. That’s the more important content. You can also use the dimming feature of PowerPoint to direct audience focus on whichever part of the slide you want their attention.

Go Dark

Dark colored slides make you (the presenter) the most contrast-rich object of the presentation. You are the show. The PowerPoint is your visual aid. It should not have white background.


You are to have no more than six objects per slide. “Counting” requires 500% more energy and cognitive resources that “seeing.” More slides are preferable to jamb-packed slide content.