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Making Your PowerPoint Slides Effective

There are too many poor PowerPoint presentations out there, which is why making just a few tweaks to your own deck can keep your audience on the edge of their seats.

I’m not a very good graphic designer, but even I know that PowerPoint slides should look better than this:

Bad Example 1

and this:

Bad Example 2

Knowing the slides should be better than these, and actually being able to put together better slides are two different things.

Over the past year, I’ve written a handful of posts about how to design more effective slide decks, and today I’m putting them all in one place. I invite you to bookmark this page so that you can come back to it each time you’re looking to put together a more effective slide deck of your own.

Three Overarching Design Concepts to Keep in Mind

In May, I had an opportunity to write a 20-page booklet on more effective slide design, a summary of which can be found here. In short, when it comes to better slide design, try the following:

  1. Before you open PowerPoint, plan.
  2. Draw attention only to the information to which you want your audience to pay attention.
  3. Let your audience interact with your content.

Making a Plan

It’s easy enough just to open PowerPoint and start cranking out slides. Visual design expert Nancy Duarte suggest this is a bad idea. “The best place to start is not with the computer,” she writes in her book slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations, “a pencil and a sheet of paper will do nicely.”

Even if you don’t have the time to sketch out every slide in your deck with a pencil and piece of paper first, you may want to at least sketch some ideas for the story arc of your presentation. Here is a post that guides you through a storyboarding process with a storyboarding template for your next slide deck.

A Sanity Check for your PowerPoint

Perhaps you don’t have time for all this planning before you open up PowerPoint, or perhaps you already have a slide deck that’s been created. In that case, you may just want to evaluate it against a checklist that can offer you some criteria as to whether your slides are:

  1. Visually attractive
  2. Easy to read
  3. Not going to distract from the presenter or presentation.

Additional Design Resources

Of course one of the things that helps truly separate amateur-looking PowerPoint decks from professional looking ones is the catalog of visual assets at your disposal. A while back, Mike Taylor offered a long list of visual assets, and I culled that list down to 18 different sites for free or low-cost images, fun fonts and interesting icon sets.

Putting some or all of these ideas into practice will increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to bring your audience to the edge of their seats during your next presentation.

What’s missing? I’d love to hear your tips, tricks and strategies for more effective PowerPoint design in the comment section!

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