Powerpoint Peeves of a CLE Provider

As you know, until late April I will still be working for PBI, a nonprofit CLE Provider, the largest in Pennsylvania. So, if I may, I ‘d like to offer would-be speakers (or those who use powerpoint in litigation) some advice on creating viewable powerpoint slides, something I might know a thing or two about.

Powerpoint Slides Should Not Replace Materials

I think many presenters literally create their lectures on Powerpoint. That is they sit down, think about what they want to say, and start typing.  The problem with this is that you end up with materials that don’t contain enough information and slides that contain too much.

Materials should be solid, substantive and useful; something that the reader can use after the program is complete.  Good, solid materials are something that people will keep and refer to. If people keep your materials they are, by nature, keeping your name and contact information.  Those people can then find you and refer business to you or hire you themselves.  Remember, your name, along with the CLE provider’s is connected to your materials.

If you want to be a speaker, and you want to be invited back (something I addressed on Tim Baran’s Blog) you need to provide good materials.  It is as simple as that.

Powerpoint Slides Should Just Have A Few Lines

It is extremely common for me to receive presentations that have slides with entire sections of cases or codes; text in 12 point font or smaller.

Remember, attendees of seminars are sitting in a large room watching your slides on a big screen; or sitting in their office watching a relatively small image with your slides.  Powerpoint slides are hard to read.

There is a reason Steve Jobs is considered one of the best speakers around, and one of those reasons is his use of stark slides.

As with Jobs, your slides should simply help to keep the students on topic.  A line or three, useful graphics, this is all your slides should contain.

And please, stay away from strange colours and fonts.  If you want your slides to be readable use a dark, simple background and a light, simple font.  Black for the background and white for the font works very well. You can also consider the reverse, light background, black font.

While I understand the need to put a copyright on your slide and to brand your slides, you are best off doing so on the first slide and the last slide and leaving it at that.  Any clutter you add is simply a distraction.

If your firm or company requires a copyright and logo, something I myself have had to do from time to time, keep it simple and keep it small.

I am not at all ashamed to say my slides have evolved over time.  I have learned from my mistakes. And I have also learned from the need to put most of my slides online since my presentations are often recorded and made available as part of PBI’s Online Campus.

I do my best to improve my slides from presentation to presentation. And I try to learn from the presentations I see at the various seminars I attend. There is no better way to improve than to keep working at your slides to make them more attendee friendly.


Make your slides easy to read, simple and straight forward.  If you want to use images or cartoons to liven them up, that is fine, but make sure the text is still large and easy to read. Make sure the background is simple and dark, the font is large, simple and light.

If you do these things and don’t try to replace your materials with your slides, you will be on the path to giving a great presentation that can hold your attendees’ attention and providing slides that will be usable in person and for online presentations as well.


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