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The Top 10 Best PowerPoint Design Practices

November 19, 2014 / Blog compilation, PowerPoint Design, powerpoint design practices, presentation design

A lot of work goes into engaging your audience. As the presenter, you need to command their attention with strong arguments and the clarity of your delivery. But these aren’t enough. You also need to enhance their experience. Aside from providing fine-tuned points, you need to help them process the information you’re sharing. This is where PowerPoint design comes in handy.

Plenty of experts have found that information is better absorbed and retained when presented with visuals. Studies have found that the brain is able to process images 60,000 times faster than information presented in text. By focusing on visuals, you can help your audience comprehend your presentation much better.

Death by PowerPoint cartoon by Tom Fishburne Marketoonist
Cartoon by Tom Fishburne (Image Source)

Unfortunately, not all PowerPoint designs are created to meet this objective. Instead of engaging the audience, some slide decks just force them to tune out. And who can blame them? A good number of presentations are highlighted by slides that are hard to read and understand. These mistakes have become so commonplace that they’re equated to a phenomenon called “Death by PowerPoint.”

If you want the audience to grasp the validity of your message, you need to present an experience that they’ll never forget. This blog is constantly updated with different tips that might help you in this process. In the time that we’ve been writing, we were able to compile some pretty useful advice.

From our experience with over 500 clients and lessons from other experts in the field, here are the top ten best PowerPoint design practices to get you started:
1. Limit text and bullet points

To save your PowerPoint design, the first thing you should do is cut back on text and bullet points. Presentation expert Garr Reynolds points out that the best slides are “virtually meaningless without narration.” To be effective, your slides should serve as a visual aid that your audience can refer to during your discussion. They shouldn’t redundantly echo everything you say.

To keep your presentation content concise, draft all your ideas into an outline. This way, you’ll be able to follow a structure and avoid going off-tangent.

2. Use high quality images that tell a story

If you remember, we briefly discussed Nancy Duarte’s quick method to diagnose bad PowerPoint design. Like billboard ads, a slide should make sense after a short glance. That means the focus should always be on imagery. To significantly reduce text content,  you can illustrate your main points with high quality images instead.

You can find unique and high quality images online. Use Flickr to search for images with a creative commons license. Depending on the type of license, you can use these images for free with a simple attribution. For royalty-free stock photos, you can try Shutterstock or Depositphotos. You can also sign up to receive free-to-use monthly photo sets from Death of the Stock Photo.

3. Be clever with your use of colors

Colors play an important role in how we perceive the things around us, so it’s important to choose a palette that won’t distract from your core message. For example, blue is often seen as a professional color. You can try to pair it with gray to give it a more muted feel, and add a bit of orange for a rich contrast. You can also make use of red with a lighter, less vibrant color.

To keep your PowerPoint design streamlined, make sure you don’t use a scheme with more than 2-3 shades. Online tools like Adobe Color CC allow you to experiment with different combinations.

4. Choose the correct font types

Your slides should be readable to the person sitting farthest from the screen. Guy Kawasaki proposes that the text in your PowerPoint deck should be in a font size that’s at least 30 points. Generally, serif fonts like Times New Roman are harder to read when projected. San serif fonts like Arial are easier on the eyes when viewed through a projection screen.

You can add variety to your slides by using more than 1 font type, but do keep your selection to just 2 or 3. Use the same font for the body and a different one for headlines.

5. Translate data into charts

Charts can be used to represent data in a visually compelling manner. Be as simple and straight to the point as possible, or you’ll risk confusing the audience with too much information.

Pick out the data that’s most relevant to the point you’re trying to make. It’s also important to ask yourself if a chart is necessary. Sometimes, it’s more effective to share statistics using compelling and descriptive language.

6. Use animation sparingly

Always use object builds and slide transitions with a subtle and careful hand. Don’t animate each element in your slide. If you have to animate certain objects, opt for something that’s similar to what you might see on the TV. Don’t use transitions in between each slide and try to use only 2-3 different effects for your entire PowerPoint deck.

7. Create contrast for emphasis

Contrast simply means difference. When you put two opposing elements together, you’re able to highlight one item over the other. This allows you to draw the attention towards certain elements of your PowerPoint design.

You can create contrast by experimenting with color selection, font choices, and the way you position each element in a slide. You can also try manipulating the space between different items and elements in your slide.

8. Create white space for focus

White space is the unmarked portion of a slide or the empty space in-between your content. It helps create balance and harmony, allowing your slide to look less cluttered. The layout of your slide should leave plenty of room in between each element. Don’t be tempted to add unnecessary icons or graphics just to fill the space. White spaces helps create a strong focal point in each slide.

9. Create a multimedia experience

Aside from using images and illustrations, you can also enhance your message through the use of video and audio elements. Add short clips of interviews or demos to give more dimension to your presentations. Another option is to increase audience interaction by incorporating polling tools and feedback forms to your PowerPoint deck.

Here are some apps and online tools for audience participation:

  • IQPolls
  • EverySlide
  • Presentain
  • SlideKlowd

10. Sort your slides

Here’s another tip from Garr Reynolds: Use the Slide Sorter to see if the structure of your presentation works. Once your PowerPoint design is complete, click on the View tab and find ‘Slide Sorter’ under Presentation Views. Re-arrange the slides if you have to. To make your discussion easier to comprehend, you can break down a single slide into several segments, or combine several related slide into fewer parts (having three main parts usually work).

Great presentations are a result of effective communication and memorable visuals. If you want to see these practices applied to actual slides, you can browse through our portfolio to see some of our best work.

Featured Image: kssk via Flickr