In a recent post, I outlined 13 ways to prepare and deliver exceptional presentations for your projects. In this article, I’m going to share 8 tips and additional resources for creating engaging slide decks.
1. Content Outline
A great design cannot save poor content so take time to research and prepare your presentation. Develop an outline of the presentation, taking the audience, your objectives, and timings into account. It’s best to focus on one key idea, which is divided into 2-3 supporting points.
2. One Idea per Slide
Despite what we like to think, humans are not wired to multitask. Your audience cannot read a dense slide, listen to you, and understand your message at the same time. In reality, you only have about 3 seconds for someone to view a slide and grasp the meaning before switching their attention back to you. Each slide should have just one idea; use as many slides as you need to! Use slide notes to capture any extra information you need to remember and practice in advance.
Visual consistency helps your audience to grasp your message quickly, making a template essential. Before jumping into the design of your slides, find out if any corporate templates or brand guidelines exist within your organization. You will need to adhere to these resources for both internal and external presentations.
If you have the option to create your own template, there are a few ways to do this.
- PowerPoint Themes
PowerPoint offers a number of pre-installed themes with various editing options. Simply open a new presentation and select ‘Design’ to access the templates.
Edit the template as needed using the ‘Variants’ menu, which includes colors, fonts, effects, and background styles.
If you wish to re-use the modified template, select the drop-down menu on the Themes ribbon and ‘save current theme’.
- Slide Master
A quick way to update or create your own template is the Slide Master view. This view will allow you to make bulk edits to a template, including changes to colors, fonts and backgrounds styles, layout, slide size, and any corporate branding elements such as a logo.
Reviewing and modifying the Slide Master before starting your presentation will save time and ensure consistency across all slides later on.
- Office 365 PowerPoint Designer
Users with access to Office 365 can use PowerPoint Designer to create custom templates. The tool is a cloud-powered recommendation engine developed with professional graphic designers.
Simply insert an image into your slide to view a number of layout and design suggestions.
The tool also provides ideas for bulleted lists. Using PowerPoint Designer, this basic slide:
Is transformed into something a little more engaging:
4. Color palette
If a corporate template is not in place, choose your color palette wisely. Generally, it is best to use a dark background with light text to aid readability. Use around 5 colors and limit complex gradients and textures as these are distracting.
PowerPoint offers a number of color palettes for each theme; I have also listed some additional color tools below.
When selecting a font, there are two considerations: style and size.
- Style: Font must be legible! Sans Serif fonts (font without small lines at the end of characters) are clean, contemporary, and easy to read on screen. Opt for Helvetica, Tahoma, Arial or Verdana.
- Size: Guy Kawasaki recommends the 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint: 10 slides, 20 minutes, and thirty-point font. Another suggestion is 28-32 point font for text and 36-44 point font for headings.
6. Content layout
Help your audience to understand your meaning quickly with the right layout.
- Most people read from left to right, top to bottom. Make sure to direct people’s gaze to the relevant portion of the slide.
- Don’t use more than six lines of text per slide.
- People tend to notice the biggest and brightest elements of a slide first so consider the flow or arrangement of your content and images.
- Contrast is a useful way to highlight key details.
- White space also helps to focus attention on key elements. Don’t clutter your slides with detailing and formatting; just let the idea stand out.
- Include a transition or breaker slide as you move from one idea to another. For an upcoming presentation, I am using a deck with a brown background, white and teal font, and teal breaker slides to introduce new points.
7. Image editing
PowerPoint includes some powerful image editing tools. To access, insert an image and select ‘Picture Tool – Format’ from the top ribbon.
- Corrections: Adjust the sharpness or brightness of your image.
- Color: Change the tone or palette of the image.
- Artistic Effects: Add filters to an image.
- Picture Styles, Border, Effects, and Layout offer further editing options.
Unhappy with the final result? Reset the picture in the ‘Adjust menu’.
SmartArt is a practical way to present data and information visually without the hassle of designing your own graphics. Graphics are grouped into 8 categories, including List and Process, and are easily customizable to your needs.
To use SmartArt, navigate to the ‘Insert Tab’ on the ribbon and select SmartArt to access the various options.
Change your graphic as needed; just click the graphic to access SmartArt ‘Design’ and ‘Format’ on the ribbon. Editing options include layout; text; adding and moving shapes; inserting images; color palettes; 3d effects, and alignment.
Additional Tools and Resources
Here are a few of my favorite resources for presentations ideas and tools.
- SlideShare is a great place to start if you are not sure how to format your presentation. Start with these 3 slide decks every presenter should read.
- Adobe Kulur is a free online color wheel tool. Use to experiment with color schemes or explore the community for inspiration.
- Canva has prepared a list of 100 color combinations to aid design. Each scheme is accompanied by a brief explanation to help you pick the best combination. I also recommend using Canva’s free graphic-design tool website when creating graphics.
- For font ideas, look no further than Font Squirrel.
- Using high-quality images and graphics will really enhance your presentation. There are several free stock photos sites to choose from, including Pixabay, PicJumbo, IMCreator, and Gratisography. The image featured in the above slides was sourced from Kaboompics.
- If you need to use icons or graphics, try Pixabay (search graphics or illustrations) or The Noun Project
- As mentioned in my previous article, Nancy Durate is a renowned presentation expert. Her blog provides excellent tips for compelling presentations; the free ‘Diagrammer’ tool includes 4,000 customizable, PowerPoint-ready diagrams.
- In need of research and graphs to support your argument? HubSpot Research, Forbes Insights, Atlas, and Gallup are excellent starting points.
Armed with these tips and tricks, you will be able to deliver interesting, engaging presentations to support your projects. Do you have any additional ideas or resources to add to this list? Just leave a comment below.