Everything You Need To Know About PPT: What Is A PowerPoint Presentation And How Do You Create One?

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “What is PowerPoint presentation?”, then you’re in luck because in this article, you’re going to finally have the answer to your all-important question.

You’ll learn everything there is to know about PowerPoint – its history, how to make an effective PowerPoint presentation, as well as see some great PowerPoint presentation examples.

Have you ever been asked to do a slideshow, a computer presentation, or a proposal presentation?

If you have, then chances are you’ve probably used PowerPoint to deliver your presentation in front of your class, your bosses, your business partners, or even potential investors.

What Exactly Is PowerPoint?

What is a PowerPoint presentation, uses of PowerPoint and how to make a PowerPoint presentation
The Microsoft PowerPoint logo

PowerPoint is Microsoft’s widely-used presentation or slideshow software. Millions of people use this powerful software in presentations in any setting, no matter how big or small the venue.

In fact, it’s probably the first presentation software that comes to mind when people are asked to present something in front of their class or company meeting.

PowerPoint (or PPT for short) is a staple program in the Microsoft Office software suite and comes packaged with Microsoft Word and Excel. You can use PPT on both Mac and PC, or any other computer operating system via the cloud-based Microsoft Office 365.

With PowerPoint, you can easily get your point across, and share your stories with your audience. Instead of verbally describing your product, you can simply show people an image of your product.

As the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words. And with PowerPoint, you have the power to convey thousands of words with just a few slides in your slideshow!

In addition to being a powerful presentation software, PowerPoint is also very versatile. You can use it to create many other types of files, such as posters, infographics, videos, PDF, and more.

Before we go over all the outstanding features that Microsoft has programmed into PowerPoint, let’s go over its history briefly so you can better appreciate its awesomeness!

A Brief History of PowerPoint (And The Pre-PowerPoint Era)

I probably won’t be wrong if I say many people think Bill Gates created PowerPoint. After all, he did co-found Microsoft, the biggest software company in the world, and the software as we know it today is called Microsoft PowerPoint. But alas, he didn’t.

Originally called ‘Presenter,’ PowerPoint was created by software startup company, Forethought, Inc. in 1987. It was originally programmed for Macintosh.

Upon realizing its full potential, however, Microsoft purchased not just the rights to use PowerPoint, but they bought Forethought as well. At the time, it was Microsoft’s most expensive acquisition.

And the price tag? $14 million (that’s about $30 million in today’s money). I bet if Forethought, Inc. knew just how popular PowerPoint would become, they would have asked for a much higher price, maybe in the hundreds of millions or quite possibly, even billions of dollars!

Before PowerPoint came into the scene, people were doing presentations by hand. This meant spending not just hours, but days making the presentation design, working on it very carefully, and making sure the final output looked great.

People had to plan every aspect of their presentation very carefully. Mistakes could prove quite costly in terms of both time and money.

Here is an example vintage presentation from GE in the 1950s. Imagine creating this presentation by hand, cutting up cardboard and paper, and gluing everything in place!

Sample slide presentation before PowerPoint came into the picture
Sample slide presentation before PowerPoint came into the picture. (Image source)

In the 1970s and well into the 80s, using overhead projectors (OHP) was a great option for giving presentations. You could write your presentation’s main points on a transparent slide which the OHP will then project onto a screen.

You can write additional notes on the slides, cross out something, draw images, etc. Because you could do these changes while presenting, it made it easier for the presenter to engage with the audience.

For instance, you can ask your audience questions, and then write down their answers on the slide. While this might have been a great option back in the day, OHPs were quite heavy. Lugging it around from one venue to another wasn’t really ideal.

But with the advent of PowerPoint, people can make presentations with just a few mouse clicks. And not just any boring static presentation either. But attractive and attention-grabbing slideshows!

Of course, the earliest versions of PowerPoint look nothing alike the most recent versions. But looks aside, the functionality was already there.

And over the years, Microsoft has developed PowerPoint to keep up with modern times.

Thirty years after it launched, PowerPoint is still a force to be reckoned with and has become synonymous with the word ‘presentation.’

The Many Wonderful Uses Of PowerPoint

Now that you know what PowerPoint is and how it came to be a force in the Microsoft-era, it’s time to go through the uses of this powerful software. This will be especially useful for you if you’re ever tasked to create a PowerPoint project.

Over the years, Microsoft has designed and tweaked PowerPoint to be more user-friendly and more intuitive. Its interface may not be as sleek and as pretty as more recent presentation software, but it does give you plenty of granular control over your presentation.

If you know where to look, you can literally edit every aspect of your slides, right down to the last element!

Here are some popular uses of PowerPoint. Note that for best results, you’d need to follow some best presentation practices so you don’t lose your audience’s attention.

1. Use PowerPoint in lectures, seminars, business presentations, sales pitches, and similar activities

Great PowerPoint presentations are never boring. Get your audience to engage with you!
Great PowerPoint presentations are never boring. Get your audience to engage with you! (Image source: Unsplash)

This is the most popular use of PowerPoint. Instead of writing down their class lessons on whiteboards and blackboards, lecturers can simply prepare their slides in advance and present them in class.

This frees up the lecturer’s time as writing down stuff on the board can take quite a while which leads to students losing interest in the lecture.

With a PowerPoint lesson, lecturers can go through each point on the slideshow and engage or interact with their students directly.

Make your PowerPoint lectures fun and memorable so your students are able to retain more information from your lecture!

With sales and business presentations, you’re pretty much using your slides as a visual aid to support your speech.

Whether you’re presenting your team or department’s quarterly report, or you’re presenting to a group of potential investors, you can use PowerPoint to drive your point home.

It’s much easier, and more credible, to show people your actual results on a well-designed table or graphic than just simply verbally mentioning it.

Likewise, startups and salespeople can use attractive slide decks that accurately depict the product or service they are pitching to potential clients or investors.

In a business setting, the stakes are much higher, so you need to make sure your PowerPoint is as persuasive as possible.

Of course, you’d have to do your part as well. If you’re a dynamic and highly engaging speaker (you better be if you are in sales!), then it will be much easier for you to grab your audience’s attention!

Make plenty of eye contact, and put your audience at ease. Be confident – nothing can turn off investors faster than a presenter who doesn’t seem to know what they’re talking about!

2. Use PowerPoint to make tutorial slideshows and videos

People love visual tutorials because they can easily understand how something is done or made. They don’t have to read through 10 pages of text to understand something. Instead, they can easily digest the information they need in just a few slides.

When making tutorials on PowerPoint, you can either use screenshots (static images of your screen), or you can record your activities on your screen.

Taking screenshots is relatively easy. In most cases, you simply need to press the PrintScreen button on your keyboard, and you’ll have your screenshot.

If you don’t know how to take a screenshot, check out TechRadar’s article on the best screen capture software for your computer.

Screen recordings, on the other hand, is not quite as difficult as it once was. In PowerPoint 2013 and 2016, you can easily record your screen by going to Insert > Screen Recording.

Simply follow the onscreen instructions, and you’ll have your recording in no time at all.

How to make a PowerPoint screen recording
How to make a PowerPoint screen recording

Here are the screen recording options:

  • You don’t have to record your entire screen. You just select a particular area you want to record. Any activity within that area gets recorded until you hit the Stop button.
  • You can choose to record your voiceover while you do your screen recording (this is great if you aren’t presenting live). Otherwise, you can choose to put the microphone on mute and give your verbal walkthrough in a live presentation.
  • You have the option to record your mouse pointer. Turning on this option is great if you’re not presenting live because it helps your audience understand what you’re doing on your computer. If you’re presenting live, you can use a laser pointer to help point people’s attention to the right places.

You can use a combination of screen captures and screen recordings to make your PowerPoint tutorial as valuable as possible. Make sure all your points tie in well together. And that your audience can easily understand how the process or system you’re talking about flows from one step to the next.

Moreover, if you want better video editing control, you can use PowerPoint add-ins from third-party software like Camtasia.

With tutorials, you can either present these in person, or you can upload this to the Internet. YouTube is a great place for people to find your content.

Many people go on YouTube to look for tutorials, and not just look at funny cat videos all day!

If you want to get more eyes to your content, then uploading your tutorial to your website, YouTube or any other video-sharing site is an absolute must!

3. Use PowerPoint to make infographics, visual resumes, and other graphics

The many uses of PowerPoint - sample PowerPoint slides and PPT model
The many uses of PowerPoint – sample PowerPoint slides and PPT model. (Image source: Hubspot)

This may sound surprising to some, but it’s really quite simple to make infographics on PowerPoint! If you want to see what’s possible, check out some awesome infographic PowerPoint examples or templates that you can download on Hubspot.

As I’ve mentioned earlier in this article, PowerPoint is a very versatile presentation software. You don’t have to use Photoshop, Canva, or any other graphics software to create infographics.

Over the years, people have come to appreciate the many benefits of creating infographics.

Infographics get more shares on social media, get more backlinking opportunities, and people appreciate the fact that they don’t have to read a thousand words when they can get all the information they need in a single infographic.

If you’re going to be paying a graphic designer to create your infographic for you, expect to shell out hundreds of dollars!

That may or may not sound like a lot of money to you, but if you know how to make a PowerPoint infographic, you can save a lot of money.

Infographics come in many different sizes. If you want to post your infographic on as many platforms as possible, you’d have to check out the individual platform’s size preferences.

No matter the size, however, you can easily change PowerPoint slide dimensions or slide sizes.

All you have to do is go to Design > Slide Size > Custom Slide Size. You can then set the Width and Height for your infographic.

How to change your PowerPoint or PPT slide dimensions for your infographic.
How to change your PowerPoint or PPT slide dimensions for your infographic.

What follows next is strictly limited by your imagination. Think outside the box, and think about the kind of infographic that your audience will find useful.

The more valuable your content, the more people will appreciate you and your hard work.

Use PowerPoint as a tool to help you get your point across and get more eyes to your awesome content!

4. Use PowerPoint to make photo slideshows

PowerPoint may seem like a software strictly for business, but did you know you can also use it for pleasure?

For instance, if you’ve recently been away on vacation, and you’ve taken a thousand pictures of things you want your family and friends to see, then you can easily use PowerPoint to create a photo slideshow.

Of course, you don’t want to bore your friends with your selfies, so make sure you pick only the very best photos of your vacation.

Who knows, it may even lead to photography work for you if people find you take high-quality and emotionally-charged photos!

Some may say you don’t need PowerPoint to create slideshows. These days you can even use your smartphone and hook it up to a laptop or projector. You can then play all the images on your phone if you want.

Some mobile phone apps include music to play along with your slideshow. You also don’t need to worry about adding transitions manually.

While this convenience is obviously great, don’t count out PowerPoint just yet!

The great thing about using PowerPoint when creating slideshows is that you’re not limited to using only photos. You can insert other elements too, like text, video, or any other graphics you want. Adding music or voice narration is easy to do too.

You can do tons of things on PowerPoint that you can’t do on your mobile app. Have a story in mind, think of cool presentation styles that will spice up your slideshow.

To get started, you can add your Photo Album to your slideshow. Go to Insert > Photo Album, and then select the slideshow settings for your presentation.

How to turn your PowerPoint pictures into a slideshow
How to turn your PowerPoint pictures into a slideshow

You can control how you want your slideshow to look like. Use transitions and animations wisely though. Don’t go crazy on them as it could be a huge turn off for your viewers (you don’t want them to get migraines after watching your slideshow)!

With PowerPoint, you can create unique and dynamic slideshows for both business and pleasure. With some creativity, you can mix and match different elements to make your slideshow an instant hit with your viewers.

If you export your slideshow into video format, people won’t even know you made it with PowerPoint! This versatility is what makes PowerPoint such an awesome piece of software.

5. Use PowerPoint in trade show booths and kiosks (self-running presentations)

Knowing how to do a PowerPoint presentation for trade shows is important if you intend to exhibit or participate in such events.
Knowing how to do a PowerPoint presentation for trade shows is important if you intend to exhibit or participate in such events. (Image source: Dave Taylor)

Self-run PowerPoint slideshows or presentations are a common sight in trade shows, trade fairs, trade exhibitions, and the like. Trade events are great for networking, and for getting more leads and sales for your business.

Looping a PowerPoint slideshow allows people to get to know more about your brand or your business. Make your slideshow as engaging as possible.

Don’t use boring templates that will literally make people run off in the opposite direction. You want people to approach your booth, not run away!

For best results, you should know your venue well. Consider the size of your booth, the furniture, the lighting, as well as your proximity to other booths so you can make the perfect presentation.

If possible, consider adding music or a voiceover to your video to make your slideshow engaging.

As usual, don’t go too crazy on animations and transitions, instead use these sparingly. Use animations to emphasize a particular point.

For transitions, a simple fade transition is usually enough for most business presentations.

To begin with, create a presentation outline to make sure your slideshow flows from one idea to the next.

Without a well thought out presentation outline, your audience could get lost in the message you want to convey.

It’s also important to not forget to rehearse your slideshow’s timings. This is especially important for self-run presentations, as no one will be manually clicking on a mouse or keyboard to advance the presentation to the next slide.

In addition to setting up a looping video, PowerPoint’s versatility allows you to create visitor-directed navigation. You can use action buttons or hyperlinks on your display screen.

This gives your audience the option to go over the menu items they want to get more info on, instead of watching your entire slideshow.

How To Make A PowerPoint Presentation Effective And Engaging (And Avoid Death By PowerPoint)

PowerPoint is arguably the most powerful presentation software in existence. However, you may have heard the phrase ‘death by PowerPoint’ before.

Some may find it an odd expression but trust me, it’s a real phenomenon. But what does it really mean?

Great PowerPoint presentations don’t bore people to death
Great PowerPoint presentations don’t bore people to death (Image source: WeKnowMemes)

‘Death by PowerPoint’ is NOT in any way, shape or form, the fault of PowerPoint. Rather, it refers to an audience’s reaction to a PowerPoint presentation.

If you’ve ever sat in front of a boring presenter with a very uninspired slideshow who kept on droning on and on about his topic, then you’ve been a victim.

If your eyes have ever glazed while sitting in on a PowerPoint presentation, then you’ve been a victim of ‘death by PowerPoint.’

While your eyes were glazing, you probably had a running commentary in your mind about how the presenter could have done a better job.

For instance, you might have thought how the presenter could have checked out some real engaging PPT presentation samples by simply doing a Google search!

There are literally tons of great-looking, free sample PowerPoint presentations available on the Internet.

Knowing how to do a PowerPoint presentation properly can mean the difference between success and failure.

At one point or another, we’ve all been victims of ‘death by PowerPoint. Know the next points by heart to avoid giving PowerPoint a bad rap!

1. Start with a presentation outline

You’re certainly free to wing your presentation, but if you want to save time, it’s best to create an outline before you start thinking about the designs, and colors you want to use in your PPT.

With an outline, you can write down the main points you want to cover, as well as write down what you’re going to say to describe those points in your verbal presentation.

An outline allows you NOT to waste time going back and forth revising your slides, simply because you can’t get your ideas to flow from one slide to the next!

2. Present one idea or story per slide

You don’t want to cram 10 ideas in a single slide. That would mean too much text and could lead to glazed eyes from your audience members.

A better arrangement would be to present idea #1 in slide #1, idea #2 in slide #2, and so on.

Here’s a good example:

Presentation example which showcase only one idea per slide
Presentation example which showcase only one idea per slide. (Image Source: Dan Benoni’s Slideshare)

In each slide, don’t just display a plain text of the idea you’re going to discuss. Use graphics, nice fonts, animations, etc. to make your idea come to life. You want people to understand your ideas.

Use the right effects to help ensure they understand your ideas thoroughly.

3. Use more graphics and less text

If your audience wanted to read, they’d be going to the library. They’re not going to be looking up at your PowerPoint and read. No.

If you’ve written a hundred words per slide, delete 90 words and leave 10 (or even fewer) of the most important words!

As we mentioned in point #2, use one story per slide. The fewer words you have on your slide, the more interesting your presentation is.

Icons, vector images, and other graphics help bring your presentation come alive, not to mention unique and engaging. Check out the example below:

PowerPoint sample that uses less text and makes good use of graphics
PowerPoint sample that uses less text and makes good use of graphics (Image source: OfficeVibe’s Slideshare)

PowerPoint makes an awesome stand-alone graphics software. It may not give Photoshop a run for its money anytime soon, but if you know how to work PowerPoint, you can make some pretty good-looking graphics on there (remember, you can use it to make infographics!).

4. Use plenty of white space

Don’t cram text, images, and graphics in your PowerPoint slides. Instead, use plenty of white space to give greater impact on the topic you’re covering or talking about.

You can use white space to direct your audience’s eyes to the text or graphics you want them to pay attention to.

White space doesn’t necessarily have to be white like you see here:

PPT presentation sample with plenty of white space
PPT presentation sample with plenty of white space. (Image source: Elodie Ascenci’s Slideshare)

Depending on your slide’s design or theme, you can use any color you want as long as it doesn’t make your slide look ‘too busy.’

5. Think about where you’re going to be presenting

This point is particularly important, because if you don’t know where you’re going to be presenting, then your presentation may not be suitable.

For example, if you know you’re going to be presenting in a large room in front of a few hundred people, then you’d make your fonts extra large so people at the back can read too.

If you’re presenting in a small room, then medium to large size fonts would be okay.

6. Use animations and slide transitions sparingly

PowerPoint has plenty of animations and transitions available. But it doesn’t mean you should use all of them in your presentation.

If you’re thinking of using 5 different animations on a single slide, and a different transition anymore after every slide, then you better rethink your presentation!

You may find it cool, but I guarantee your audience will hate it. Using too many animations and transitions is a sure-fire way of getting your audience’s ire.

If you want people to pay attention to your presentation, use animations, and slide transitions as sparingly as possible.

7. Tell stories that appeal to your audience’s emotions

Make your presentation relatable to your audience. If you’re presenting in front of a middle-aged professional crowd, then tone down your design.

Don’t use slang that’s more fitting for youngsters than people in their 40s or 50s.

Stories help get your point across. To make people remember your story, you’d need to connect with them on an emotional level. Tell a joke at the right time. Drop a relevant quote when possible.

8. Make frequent eye contact

If making eye contact scares you, then it’s best to practice speaking in front of a mirror and looking into your eyes. Think of it as looking into the eyes of your audience.

When you’re ready to practice with other people, ask family members or friends to sit in front of you. Ask them to give you some pointers and feedback to help you improve.

When presentation time comes, you may be surprised at just how easy it is to look your audience in the eye.

9. Your confidence helps enhance your presentation

Confidence is an important factor to make your presentation as effective and as engaging as possible. Making eye contact helps convey confidence.

If you don’t fumble on stage and stay calm even though you just encountered a technical problem, then you help put your audience at ease.

Your confidence allows you to charm your audience and help make your presentation memorable to them.

Being confident allows you to deliver your speech, and use your presentation slides, in an engaging manner.

You want your audience to hang onto every word you say. Your presentation is just a visual aid, you need to have the confidence to pull off a solid presentation that will get you high marks in your audience’s book!

PowerPoint Is Still King Among Presentation Software

There’s no doubt. With its versatility and its robust features and tools, PowerPoint still reigns supreme even today.

What’s even better is you’re not stuck with the default settings. You can further expand its feature set by downloading PowerPoint plugins to get even more out of the software.

Over the decades, Microsoft has done an excellent job of keeping PowerPoint up to date. They regularly update the software every few years and add features that keep it competitive with the current presentation software landscape.

Competition may have stepped up over the years, but no one is yet to say that Keynote, Google Slides, Prezi, Slidebean, Visme, or any other presentation software, has taken over PowerPoint’s giant market share.

I hope this article has answered your question, “What is PowerPoint presentation?” If anything is still unclear, we have tons of articles on this blog about PowerPoint, Keynote, Presentation Design, and many other relevant topics!

You might also find this interesting: How To Write A Great PowerPoint Presentation That Will Glue Your Audience To Their Seats