If you've a PowerPoint presentation to make, you want it to be effective, to be of the highest standard you're able to give. Of course you do. What would be the point in wasting time preparing and giving a presentation that's lacking in quality? Whether the purpose is to inform, to educate, to persuade, to highlight details, to report on successes or to advertise the benefits of a proposal, a less effective PowerPoint show means that your message simply won't get through as well as it should. Presentations, after all, are an important part of business life; a failed presentation can be, at best, a wasted opportunity - or at worst it could have a tangibly negative impact on the audience.

So, am I here to tell you how to make the perfect presentation, how to wow every audience with a flawless and fascinating display? No. I'm sorry if that seems a disappointment or a dereliction of duty. Although, to be honest, if it does disappoint, then you might consider finding a different article to pass your time with - because it's going to get worse. I'm going to be inviting you to find out how to improve your presentation yourself. Yes - I'm expecting you to do all the work here.

Not too discouraged, I hope? Good. You see, the best way to up the quality of those presentations is not to read articles about PowerPoint (not that I wish to deter you from reading articles, they can still do a lot of good, I promise) but to listen to your audience. I could easily write about my experiences of using PowerPoint, but my audiences were different, my subjects were different. I may have learnt some helpful techniques for using the software, but they won't be the same as your experiences, nor the same as the situations you'll face in future.

No, the best judges of what was good and what was bad about the presentation you've given are the people who saw it. Collect feedback from your audience, ask individuals honestly and openly what they liked or didn't like. You can do this informally, chatting with your audience either at the time or later on - and if you take this approach, it might be worth preparing the questions you'll ask beforehand. But it's worth bearing in mind that many people in this situation will be inclined to withhold criticism, and will be wary of upsetting you.

Alternatively, you can create a questionnaire and invite your audience to complete and return it anonymously; this has the advantage of encouraging a more open response, with less self-censorship than if the respondent had told you face to face. However, although responses may be more insightful, you're also asking more of your audience, and can probably expect less feedback as a result. Nonetheless, any feedback is useful, and far better than none.

There is a third method, too. And it's one you may find particularly helpful, because it's honest, and because it can be gathered from any of your audience without effort on their part. You can collect feedback in real-time by watching your audience as they watch you.

Look out for the tell-tale signs of enthusiasm and of disinterest: when people are engaged with what they're seeing and hearing, they're more likely to be sitting upright, perhaps leaning a little forward, eyes attentive and focused; when their attention wavers, it's more common to find them leaning back, perhaps slouching a little, blinking more often, and their gaze may be wandering. If a section of your presentation tends to provoke one response more than the other, make a note of this, as it will come in handy.

Indeed, all the feedback you collect will come in handy. Use it to identify those parts of your presentation which succeeded, and which didn't. When it comes to the effective sections, can you see what you might have been doing there to have such a positive impact? That's when your presentation was at its best, so wherever possible, carry those ideas over to future presentations. PowerPoint makes this easy: the effective styles can be saved and reapplied over and over again, while whole slides that are proven to work can be stored in a Slide Library - from where they can be slotted into any future presentation, and adjusted to fit the new content wherever necessary.

And the slides that didn't work? Compare them to the successful ones. Where might you be going wrong? We all make mistakes, after all, and there's no shame in realising that you put something into your last presentation that would have been much better left unused, or that you tried a style or an approach that just didn't have the impact you desired. Make a note of what needs to be avoided in future - and if you have any slides stored that aren't effective, it's easy to open them in PowerPoint and change them accordingly.

By taking the feedback on board, you're looking at the presentation through someone else's eyes, through impartial eyes with an impartial opinion behind them - and that alternative view of your work can be invaluable. It's worth considering a short PowerPoint course, to get the most out of the software, and combining that extra expertise with the lessons of feedback, you can be confident of always making the best possible impact with every presentation. And I didn't need to tell you how to improve them after all.