Deadly Sins of Bad PowerPoint Presentations

by Danielle Dalton Last Updated: 2018.06.18

Normally, people do anything to avoid listening to a presentation. Yet, people are viewing TED talks online 1.5 million times a day, according to Carmine Gallo, the author of Talk Like Ted: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds.

Why are people flocking to TED’s website then to watch presentations? TED talks are known to be some of the best presentations in the world. Each presentation is only 18 minutes long, yet viewers always leave feeling inspired and educated about a topic.

How do the individuals manage to deliver such empowering presentations? Besides having a true passion for the topic and pouring their life’s work into the 18 minute slot, the presenters follow TED’s 10 Commandments.

When you’re asked to deliver a talk, TED sends you an engraved tablet with its ten commandments. If they work for legions of individuals whose presentations have been viewed millions of times, they’ll work for you too.

The Commandments

  1. Thou shalt not simply trot out thy usual shtick.
  2. Thou shalt dream a great dream, or show forth a wondrous new thing, or share something that thou hast never shared before.
  3. Thou shalt reveal thy curiosity and thy passion.
  4. Thou shalt tell a story.
  5. Thou shalt freely comment on the utterances of other speakers for the sake of blessed connection and exquisite controversy.
  6. Thou shalt not flaunt thine ego.  Be thou vulnerable; speak of thy failure as well as thy success
  7. Thou shalt not sell from the stage: neither thy company, thy goods, not thy writings, not thy desperate need for funding; lest thou be cast aside into outer darkness.
  8. Thou shalt remember all the while: Laughter is good.
  9. Thou shalt not read thy speech.
  10. Thou shalt not steal the time of them that follow thee.

How do you make sense of these ten seemingly cryptic messages from the Gods of public speaking?

Go one by one down the list

Go one by one down the list as you prepare for your presentation.

  1. Don’t give another boring presentation.  A presentation is an opportunity to be different and share what you know.  Imagine if everyone approached every presentation opportunity as a chance to make an impact on others in a positive way.  Presentations would improve drastically.
  2. Don’t tell people things they already know.  Share with them further insight.  If you’re delivering a presentation to those already familiar with your topic or area of expertise, reduce the amount of background details and jump to your insightful or new information to truly engage your audience.
  3. Your presentation should reflect your passion.  You put a lot of effort into your presentation, so be genuine.  Don’t sell yourself short!  You know so much and are so capable.  Share that with others!
  4. Tell a story.  People respond better to stories than just hard cold facts or statistics.   There is a story hidden in every topic or subject matter.
  5. If you’re giving your presentation at a conference or in a group setting, you can comment on the experience.  If everyone is sharing amazing research at a conference, you can take a moment to talk about another presentation that relates to your topic or to publicly acknowledge a fellow colleague whose work you found inspiring.
  6. No one likes to hear a presentation that is a thinly-veiled self-congratulary speech.  No one knows all the answers to everything in the world.  Be human.  Admit when you don’t know things.  Be confident in what you do know.
  7. Unless your presentation is specifically designed to be a sales pitch, avoid flat out selling things.  If you use your presentation to build credibility and expertise, audience members will seek out your goods or services on their own.  Earn loyalty.
  8. People love to laugh and be happy in life.  Presentations shouldn’t dictate a temporary cease on happiness and fun.  Embrace humor in your presentation where appropriate.
  9. Do not read directly from a script.  Make eye contact and engage with your audience!
  10. If you have a set amount of time for your presentation, follow it!  We’ve all been in positions where a presenter has just kept talking and talking.  That’s never fun.  Keep your presentation to its allotted time!

Keep these ten commandments in mind to avoid the sins of powerpoint presenters.  Also, if you need some examples of the commandments in action, watch the 20 Most Popular TED talks online.


These presentations have been viewed by millions. Every presenter is someone just like you. They have a message and a limited amount of time to share it.  They applied the commandments to their presentation, so they could effectively share their story with others. If they can do it, so can you.