11 Top PowerPoint Slide Design Tips

11 Top PowerPoint Slide Design Tips

We have all attended presentations which have put us to sleep. It may not be just because the speaker has a monotonous voice. It may not be just that the subject matter is really dreary. No, it may be that the presentation materials are dull, boring, unreadable, too busy. You get my meaning.

But PowerPoint presentations don’t have to be this way. Follow these tips, and your presentations will come alive, stir interest, and keep your audience awake.

Keep it Simple

This is probably the most obvious tip, and surely the easiest to implement. No, it is not! Despite being told this all the time, we never seem to follow this golden rule. The easy steps are as follows:

· Do not make the slides unnecessarily complicated, busy or too full;

· Nothing on the slide should be unnecessary;

· Utilise white space;

· Do not add things which do not aid better understanding.

Think about Stock Templates

It is unusual for users to look at templates beyond those which come with the software. Accordingly, they are often over-used, and can be ugly and boring. Furthermore, a lack of consistency can be confusing to the audience.

Another easy solution: build your own from a clean template and maintain consistency throughout.

Limit Bullet Points

When we think about dull presentations, we often think of those with pages filled with bullet points. To avoid this, the easiest solution is to limit bullet points on a slide, and use a sequence of slides to build up your point.

Limit Text

Too much text requires your audience to concentrate on the slide rather than you. Use text for emphasis rather than regurgitating what you are saying.

Think about Transitions and Builds

Some animation can be appropriate, others are tedious, slow and smack of showing off! The best advice here, is to use judiciously.

Thinking Fonts

Utilise traditional typefaces, like Helvetica. Serif fonts can bleed together, reducing legibility. So use sans serif. Coupled with the use of an appropriate font, think about both font size (ie it must be large enough for the person at the back of the room to read it) and also using bold when using light text colours against a dark background. This enhances readability. On the same subject, you need to keep a high level of contrast between text and background. This is particularly important if the background is very varied. A bar of colour behind the text may alleviate any problems here.

Careful Colours

The good use of colours clearly improves the effectiveness of slides. Limit the amount of colours you use, and select those with care. They need to be in harmony with each other. The use of contrasting text colours aids in drawing attention to important points.

It is worth thinking about where the presentation will be taking place. Lit rooms benefit from light backgrounds with dark text, whereas the reverse is true for dark rooms.

Clarity with Charts

There is no doubt that the presentation of data is significantly improved through the use of charts and tables. However, presenters are often guilty of:

· Including too much detail;

· Providing insufficient detail;

· Using the wrong chart type.

Getting the first two right is difficult. However, it is easier to get a message across with less data, and highlighting the point you wish to make, and providing additional data in a handout, or supporting slide, than it is to be clear in a sea of data!

Different chart types serve different purposes:

· Pie charts – used to show percentages, limit the slices to 4 to 6 and contrast the most important slice either with colour, or by exploding it;

· Vertical bar charts – generally used to show changes in quantity over time. Again, limit the number of columns to between 4 and 8. To highlight point, use it as a chart title;

· Horizontal bar charts – used to compare quantities. Same comments as for vertical bar charts apply;

· Line charts – used to demonstrate trends. Again, use the headline to highlight the point you wish to reinforce.

In addition to graphical charts outlined above, there are numerous other sorts of chart/diagram which can be utilized, including circles, onion diagrams, Venn diagrams, spoke diagrams, matrices, waterfall charts, to name a few.

Tables show data in a way with less impact. If you wish to ‘hide’ data, this can be a way of doing so.

Ideal Images and Visuals

Too many images can be confusing, and look messy. Utilise a single image with simple or no text. The sensible use of visuals is critical as well. In addition to ensuring that you use high-quality graphics, they must enhance your message as well as aiding comprehension, retention and boosting impact. Think about whether the image is the focal or supporting aspect of the slide. Answering this question will allow you to address formatting options for each element.

Interest with video and audio

Videos and audio clips can help break up a presentation and illustrate points in a different manner from the presentation itself. They can also re-stimulate interest.

However, the use of inappropriate or unnecessary additions can have the opposite effect.

Slide Sorter

Having completed all the slides, it is worthwhile using slide sorter to look at the general layout, order and progression of the slides. It is here where things can catch your eye, allowing you to rethink the order, build up and content of your slide pack.


PowerPoint presentations do not have to be dull. They do not have to be dreary. They do not have to be monotonous. Adopt these tips, and your presentations will improve dramatically.

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