8 Ways to Avoid Death by PowerPoint: How to Make A Slide Deck Shine
Knowing how to make a slide deck that looks slick and professional is almost as important as what you are presenting. If the information isn't presented in clear, concise and visually pleasing ways, the message may get lost.
Many professionals still rely on Microsoft PowerPoint to develop comprehensive presentations, digital slide decks, and other work-related content. More commonly referred to as a slide deck or just PowerPoint, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the tool is still widely used by professionals in almost every industry.
PowerPoint was originally developed for business use. Robert Gaskins was responsible for designing the application that took the world by storm back in 1987. Its initial purpose was to help businesses facilitate visual demonstrations for meetings and company-wide events.
Now, you can make a PowerPoint presentation for just about anything. Schools, churches, and nonprofit organizations are some examples of organizations that use PowerPoint in their daily operations. Young children who have computer classes are now being taught how to use PowerPoint, too, as they'll likely need to use those skills later in their academic careers.
For some workers, PowerPoint is the bane of their existence. Working with the application is fairly simple and user-friendly, but it's still relatively common for people to make PowerPoint mistakes that could negatively affect their brand image or reputation.
Let's discuss eight key factors you should consider when working with PowerPoint to improve your slide decks so you can appeal to your audience and earn a round of applause at the end of your presentation.
1. Convey one message per slide.
The goal of your presentation is to make it easy for your audience to understand the message or messages you're trying to convey. Each slide should serve as an opportunity to share one singular, clear message to your audience.
When you present more than one topic per slide, your audience may become confused and will be too busy processing the information to understand what you, the speaker, are trying to say. It negatively impacts your audience's focus as it diverts their attention to what's on-screen.
Additionally, one slide is only big enough to fit a picture or a handful of sentences. Be sure not to overwhelm your colleagues with too many slides or messages within slides. Keep it short and simple.
2. Keep bulleted lists concise.
Any graphic designer will tell you that less is usually more. In many cases, especially with PowerPoint presentations, the audience doesn't want to spend time reading — they want to be actively listening and engaged in what messages you're conveying.
Using bulleted lists will do just that. Use short, bulleted lists to highlight important talking points rather than include paragraphs of text or a handful of photos.
Because you should be relying on your memory during a presentation, you don't want to get caught up reading your own PowerPoint. It comes off as unprofessional to your audience.
3. Apply the rule of thirds.
Used often in photography or video production, the rule of thirds is a tool that you should use to your advantage. The rule of thirds is a type of off-center composition which divides a photo (or PowerPoint slide, in this case) into nine equal parts.
This rule can be applied to more than just photos or videos, but you should use it to help draw your audience's attention to the critical pieces of information on your slide.
Many educated graphic designers know the rule of thirds, so outsourcing your presentation work to freelancers using Fiverr, for example, could be a worthwhile investment.
4. Use contrasting colors.
If you've ever sat through a PowerPoint presentation, which you likely have, the last thing you want to see is a neon green or yellow background. It's too much for your eyes to handle, and it's not visually appealing in the slightest. You'll be much more likely to capture your audience's attention if you stick to using basic, primary colors.
Certain colors evoke different emotions in humans. For example, red may make us feel anger, passion, love, or power. Other colors like green or blue are known for bringing a calming effect. Understanding color psychology can help you decide which emotions you want your audience to feel.
It should go without saying that it's critical to choose a light or dark color for the background of your slide deck and match your text color accordingly. If you use a black background, you clearly won't use black text to write out your key talking points.
Use common sense when choosing your color combinations, and remember: outsourcing graphic design work is a possible solution if you need someone else to assist with PowerPoint projects.
5. Illustrate data through graphical elements.
Many professionals who make comprehensive presentations know it can be challenging to include important data. However, using data to illustrate an idea can bring your presentation to the next level. Hiring an illustrator can help you with this if you want to really take it to the next level.
Whether you're using a bar graph or a line graph, showing data in a visual way will make it easier for your audience to digest. This could be especially useful for professionals in the accounting and finance industry, which heavily relies on concrete data and other important figures.
You can also consider using maps as a way to convey information. For example, maps can be a perfect way to illustrate key sales metrics and which areas of the world your company is performing well in.
6. Use consistent fonts.
While experimenting with fonts can be fun while you're preparing your PowerPoint, be sure to stick to one font throughout your presentation. To reiterate, your goal should be to make viewing your presentation easy for your audience members.
Choosing the appropriate font could make or break your presentation — while fonts can add a sense of style and personality to your slides, make sure you're keeping your font consistent across all of your slides. Viewers should be able to read your text and important information with no problem.
Keep in mind that freelance designers can do a lot with just one font, but it's suggested that you stick to a maximum of two font styles. You can consider hiring someone from Fiverr to help you decide what types of fonts will be most appropriate.
7. Go easy on the effects and transitions.
PowerPoint has many effects and transitions that you can incorporate into a presentation. They can certainly make your presentation more playful, but that may not be suitable for all types of meetings. If you have to use them, be sure to keep them consistent and subtle, as they won't take away from the presentation's key points.
Additionally, it makes your presentation seem longer when your audience has to wait for photos or text to fly in or dissolve. The actual content in your presentation should be compelling enough that it becomes unnecessary to use effects or cool transitions.
Leave the motion effects to the professionals — if you want to use advanced transitions, Fiverr can help you find a freelance designer who's well-versed in this area.
8. Resize and crop photos.
When using stock images or company photos, you may not think to resize or crop them. However, resizing and cropping can make pictures more compelling. Photos are typically more effective after they go through some minor editing.
You should also feel free to work with the coloring of your photos and recolor as you see fit. This can help you achieve a more professional, consistent look across your slides, which will likely impress your audience.
Outsourcing may be your best option because graphic designers have more experience with recoloring and using programs like Photoshop consistently.
Keep all of these tips in mind as you work to create a compelling, professional-looking PowerPoint presentation. Slide decks are an important part of any business, and many industries use them to present information to colleagues and clients.
Survive and Thrive Using PowerPoint
If you're a professional working in a business environment, you must have fundamental knowledge about PowerPoint and what makes a presentation worth listening to.
If you aren't a pro, there are plenty of online resources that are readily available to help you make your presentations shine. Consider the Microsoft Sway app, for example — its features can help you craft stunning presentations in minutes.
Even better, hire your project out to someone with the expertise to create a polished look, leaving your time free to do the things you are great at.
Keep these tips handy so you can thrive using PowerPoint. Your presentations will capture your audience's attention and keep them engaged throughout the deck.