Using quotes effectively on your slides; Issue #215 July 27, 2010

PowerPoint Tip: Using quotes effectively on your slides

You want to use a quote to illustrate your point, so you type it out on a PowerPoint slide.  Like most presenters, you show the slide and immediately start talking about how this quote illustrates your point.  Unfortunately, the audience is still reading the quote while you are speaking, so they don’t hear your insights.  They come up with their own interpretation when they are reading the quote, which may not match what you wanted them to get out of it.

When you are using a quote, you need to give the audience context before you show the quote.  They need to know the background, such as when it was said, under what circumstances, where was it said, who is saying it, why is this person important, what happened just before it was said, or why the person said it.  Giving context prepares the audience to interpret the quote in the right way.

When you show the slide with the quote, pause, turn towards the screen and stay silent for the few seconds that it takes to read the quote.  I usually read the quote to myself to approximate how long it would take someone to read the quote.  Then, turn back to face the audience and start your interpretation.  If it is a short quote, you may read it to the audience, but it is not always necessary.  Always give the audience time to read the quote when it appears on the screen.  They naturally want to read it, so allow them to do so without interrupting them with your speaking.  The reason for turning to face the screen is that people will look where you look, so if you look at the screen, they will look there as well and read the quote.  When you turn back to face the audience, they have finished reading the quote and are ready to hear your insight.

If there are a few words or a phrase that you consider to be the key part of the quote, highlight those words so they stand out for the audience.  You can do this when the quote first appears, but it is usually more effective if you highlight the key phrase as you are explaining why the audience should focus on those words.  This way, they reconsider the key words as you explain their significance.  I have found the most effective technique to emphasize words is to use a highlighter effect so it looks like you are actually using a highlighter over the words on the screen.  I’ve got a quick video on this at if you don’t already know how to create this effect, or if you want to see that technique along with many other effective tips, you can see it as part of the recording of my PowerPoint How-To Webinar at

Quotes can be wonderful additions to your presentation if you use them effectively so that the audience sees the clear connection to your point and why the quote reinforces what you are saying.