Creating Effective Powerpoint Slides
- Plan: Look at the Big Picture
- Create Slides
- Keep It Simple and Clear
- Design Principles
- Oral Presentation
- Have a Back Up Plan
A good PowerPoint slideshow complements your presentation by highlighting your key message, providing structure, and illustrating important details.
While it is not difficult to create a good PowerPoint presentation, it is very easy to create a bad one. Bad PowerPoint presentations may have one or more of the following characteristics: too much specialized detail, too many slides, too many colours, unnecessary images or effects, small text, unreadable figures, and/or unclear slide order.
The strategies below can help you to create effective presentations and to save your audience from “death by PowerPoint.”
- Plan: Plan your talk first (see Academic Skills Oral Presentations) and then plan your PowerPoint to accompany your argument and evidence.
- Audience: Who is in your audience and what do they know about the material? What do you want them to learn? Consider your overall argument and evidence that you want to present.
- Purpose: Define the goals, topic and appropriate depth and scope of information.
- Presentation Length: Know the time available for your presentation. Be realistic about how much material you can cover as it is important that you keep within your time limit. Follow the general rule of thumb: You need about one slide per minute.
You are now ready to create individual slides. If you have never used PowerPoint before, you can find hundreds of good tutorials online. Find one that works for you.
The classic PowerPoint error is to write sentences on a slide and read them. Rather than treating your slides as a script for your presentation, let the content on your slides support your message. Remember: LESS IS MORE.
- Where possible, include a heading for each slide
- Use bulleted points and avoid long sentences (it is often suggested that you include no more than 6 lines per slide or 6 words per line)
- Font size: 30 - 48 point for titles, 24 - 28 for text
- Avoid all capital letters
- Proofread carefully for spelling and grammar
Figures and Images
- Ensure images are clear and relevant
- Label all figures and tables
- Put units beside numbers on graphs and charts
- Embrace empty space
- Use vertical and horizontal guide markers to consistently align elements
- Avoid too many colours, clutter or fancy visual effects
- Use high contrast to ensure visibility: e.g. Black text on white background or black on light blue
- Maintain consistency of the same elements on a slide (colours, fonts, styles, placement etc.), as well as, between slides in the slide deck
- Use animation sparingly, if at all. If you use transitions, use the same kind each time
- Edit entire slide deck to ensure organization is logical and design is consistent
Even with the best of PowerPoints, good presentations require practice and refinement Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! Listen for awkward or unclear wording and make edits as needed. Keep an eye on time limits. Practice presenting alone, but also for friends.
Advance the slide when you reach that point in the presentation. Do not stand in front of the screen or talk to it. Face the audience at all times.
Try to test your presentation in the room before your talk; you may need to adjust the colours or font size for the room and equipment. For further information, see How to Prepare and Deliver an Oral Presentation.
Remember that PowerPoint may look great, but technical failures do happen. Mentally prepare for any eventuality. Make sure to save the presentation several ways: save on a USB stick and email it to yourself. Print out the slides to have a paper version in case of equipment failure and practice giving your presentation without your slides.