PowerPoint is kind of like auto tune for musicians – certain features can help in small doses, but if you overdo it, then whatever information and insight you had in your presentation can easily get drowned out by the effects themselves. With that in mind, here are a few tips for keeping things crisp and professional:

Stick to your main message. With all that you can do on PowerPoint these days, there’s a definite tendency to do too much. While it’s not advice that has to do with limiting your effects, per se, keeping your slides on point – and moving smoothly from one topic to the next – is a great first step.

Repeat your biggest points at least twice. Likewise, the most important thing about your presentation is the impression it makes on others. For that reason, it’s a good idea to make sure your most important points come through by repeating them at least twice.

Minimize video and audio to the basics. If there’s a good reason to include audio or video clip in your presentation, then go for it. Otherwise, it’s probably just going to distract others from the focus of your talk. Given that they can easily be disruptive and go on too long, be very selective with these media when using them.

Limit yourself to three effects or less. This is the big one: Even the best effects can’t do anything to save a weak presentation, and they’ll only get in the way of a strong one. Find two or three special features (like disintegrating slides or animations) that you really like, and don’t use any more.

Practice your presentation a few times beforehand. One of the biggest problems with PowerPoint effects is that most users don’t fully appreciate how much time they can take during a live presentation. Run through yours a few times beforehand – preferably with a friend or colleague who can slow you down if necessary – so you can get your timing down.

Find out what sort of equipment you’ll have in your meeting room. Certain slides and designs look better on certain screens and layouts. Figure out what kind of equipment you’ll be working with before it’s time to stand and deliver.

Get help designing your PowerPoint presentation. If it’s a “make or break” kind of situation, why leave things to chance? There is any number of experience design firms (like ours) that can help you put together a high-quality, high-impact PowerPoint presentation.