7 Tips for Making PowerPoint Less Painful


You can’t escape it.

No matter where you go, or how hard you try, it’s there. It waits patiently at gatherings large and small, biding its time until the moment is right to come out and bore everyone to death.

I’m talking, of course, about PowerPoint.

We all hate it. We all know it looks awful. Yet it makes putting together a presentation so much simpler. And that’s why it persists. Like toenail fungus or house ants, it refuses to go away.

So today I’m sharing a few ways to make PowerPoint bearable. Maybe even appealing. I know that may seem like crazy-talk, but hang in with me, okay?



Tip 1 – Don’t Use a Theme

You may think a theme will lend some pizazz to your presentation, but I’m willing to bet “pizazz” isn’t what you’re going for. You probably want “clean” or “streamlined” or “sophisticated.” By and large, pre-made themes are none of those things.

Tip 2 – Do Use a Font Heirarchy

Pick a large, bold font for slide titles. Then pick a complementary, smaller font for slide body copy. Pick a size for each of these fonts, and don’t deviate from it. Not sure which fonts are complementary? There’s lots of advice out there.

Tip 3 – Don’t Cram Text

I hate to break it to you, but if you have to put all the text from your presentation on a slide, you’re not a very good presenter. In his book, Talk Like TED, Carmine Gallo says that people can read slides or they can listen to you — they can’t do both. Pare it down to high points and key messages, and use pictures or video whenever you can.



Tip 4 – Do Think Differently

Headings or slide titles don’t always have to go on top. While you do want to use a consistent layout pattern in your slide deck, it doesn’t have to be top to bottom. Why not surprise your audience by positioning things left-to-right, like the slide above? Or using a quadrant layout?

Tip 5 – Don’t Use Clip Art

No matter what version of MS Office you have, clip art will make your presentation look dated. If you absolutely MUST use it (and it should be very rare), stick to illustrations that look like icons — high contrast and flat design help convey a more modern feeling. Also, be sure to use art from the same family of illustrations so it all ties together.



Tip 6 – Do Use Effects

They’re available in PowerPoint for a reason. Got a map with way too much info on it? Make it interactive with the trigger function. Want an element on your slide to feel a little more prominent? Try adding a drop shadow to it to make it pop out visually.

Tip 7 – Do Use Good Photos

As mentioned above, you should use photos whenever you can. But if photos are blurry or pixelated, it will bring down the quality of your presentation. Also, don’t let them overlap, unless it’s part of your intended design. And if they have to overlap, use the drop shadow effect mentioned above to help with perspective.

Remember, a good PowerPoint presentation is clean, concise and consistent. Keep those words in mind when laying yours out, and your viewers will thank you.


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