We’ve all sat through- and struggled to stay awake during- meetings with the same old Power Point presentation with the basic title at the top, basic text running in bullet points underneath and nothing exciting in between. You don’t need a degree in graphic design to make an interesting and dynamic presentation. Simple layout enhancements and a few key graphics can be the difference between “I’m sorry, what? I nodded off there for a minute” and “Oh, what interesting information!”
Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Choose a strong font.
The font is not the place for whimsy. Never forget the companies who found themselves with rude words instead of a dynamic logo because the font they used linked the wrong letters in the wrong ways. Choose a font that is easy to read and professional looking. If all else fails, stick with Times New Roman. Calibri, Helvetica, Garamond and Segoe are also acceptable alternatives.
Avoid fonts like Comic Sans, Lucida, Curlz, Chiller or any others that are kitschy or imitate hand writing or script. It may be cool that it looks like Ye Olde Englishe, but trust me on this one. As we’d say where I come from, “ain’t nobody gonna take you seriously lookin’ like that.”
2. Choose a design or theme to connect all of your slides.
The newer versions of Power Point make this easy for you with customizable themes and backgrounds that automatically apply to all of your slides and give you a world class presentation with one click of the mouse. These dynamic designs vary from simple color gradients to complex textures and shapes and really make your slides look connected and impressive.
Adding a color bar or logo to each page can also make the presentation feel more unified and really tune down the snooze factor. A good path is to choose a design or shape to feature prominently on the title slide and then incorporate that same design in smaller ways on the subsequent slides. For example, add a color bar to the bottom half of the title page and then use a smaller bar of the same color on the subsequent slides.
While you should feel free to make the title page snazzy, keep the slides with substantive information simple. You don’t want to overwhelm the audience or distract from the information.
3. Choose your photos and other art wisely.
Don’t rely solely on the clip art provided by Microsoft for this one. There are some amazing websites out there for free photos and vector art. Take advantage of them. My personal favorite is pixabay, though you can also use Unsplash, Pexels, Freestocks, Burst and many, many more. Just make sure you check the licensing on anything you download to ensure it is free for your required use.
A bit of advice: know thy audience. Use silly or otherwise whimsical imagery judiciously. Do not overload your audience with too many puppies reading books or stick figures scratching their heads in confusion. If a well-placed photo or graphic can make a presentation, a poorly placed one can just as easily break it.
4. Dress up your bullet points
The worst offense of the boring Power Point is the standard title-at-the-top-of-the-page-with-bullets-underneath. Ho hum. Been there, done that.
The fancier versions of Office give you more options for conveying your information creatively with things like Smart Art - predesigned graphics to give your bullet points more pizazz. However, if your version does not have Smart Art, you can create the look using shapes. Text boxes placed inside rectangles or squares make the information stand out without overpowering or overshadowing the substance. Call outs, arrows and lines also dress up without upstaging.
As with everything, use these tools judiciously. Keep the graphics uniform across the presentation in terms of shapes or call outs. Use only one or two unifying colors for all graphics and keep the colors bright but complementary. Neon yellows and greens may say “look at me”, but not really in a good way.
5. Keep the information short and to the point.
Personal pet peeve: don’t read your slides to your audience unless they aren’t able to read it for themselves. The information contained in each bullet point should be no longer than one to two sentences and should just be a headline, a teaser for the information to come. A Power Point should not present all of your information for you.
6. Keep your animations and transitions uniform and in tune with your theme.
Animations and transitions are an easy way to spice up your presentation with minimal effort. However, as with everything, don’t overdo it. Words flying onto the screen from every direction and slides whirling around like a top every time they change can be just as distracting as neon colors or loud sound graphics. If you have a lot going on with each slide, perhaps a simpler transition or animation will complement your presentation better. If your theme is very simple, snazzier transitions could liven it up a bit.
Power point presentations can either be incredibly useful tools to disseminate information or boring blah-fests to make even the most interested seek caffeine. With a few simple additions, you can make a presentation that looks both professional and interesting.