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One of the most popular forms of communication in the business-to-business (B2B) world is the hard-working PowerPoint (PPT) presentation. While it can be a very effective tool when done properly, too many people appear to live by the idiom that “a thousand words is worth a picture”. They also seem to think that visuals are an afterthought. However, it doesn’t have to be this way – in fact, it shouldn’t. Here are 12 PPT tips to boost the visual punch of your presentations and make them more effective.
1. Keep copy short and to the point
Make sure you keep this at the top of your mind when creating a PPT: it is a tool to help you tell your story. It is not the story. You do not need to put every scrap of information on one slide. Whether you’re presenting in front of several hundred people at a conference or three people in a boardroom, you want your audience to focus on you and what you have to say, not your slides. Put all that extra material in the speaking notes so you can remember to mention it when you’re presenting.
2. Keep text legible
When working with imagery or other design elements, it’s important to remember that your text must be legible. Don’t put it on a busy image. If the image doesn’t have an obvious area for text, use a screened box to ensure your text pops. Or crop the image and run your text beside or underneath it. There are a hundred and one ways to avoid illegible text. (Word art should not be one of them.)
3. Keep visuals simple
If you need to express a complex topic, you don’t need to grab a dozen images to make your point. One high-quality image that supports your message makes a far better impression and does not force people to “read” the various images looking for meaning, taking their attention away from you and your story.
4. Don’t shout
Another common issue I see is font size. People still live by the 10/20/30 rule, which says that PPTs should not contain fonts smaller than 30 points. This is ridiculous. While few people follow it, Guy Kawasaki’s outdated rule can still be seen in many PPTs where the font sizes are far too big. Copy should not dominate the screen. This is especially true for PPTs that are only ever going to be delivered to someone’s inbox and seen on a personal screen.
5. Use high-quality imagery
I often see poor quality (even pixelated) imagery used in slides. And clip art (somehow) still graces the 16×9 screen. These make your PPT look amateurish. Go for a high-quality image that tells your audience your product is quality too. There are lots of inexpensive ways to do this: Wikipedia, Pexels, Wikimedia Commons, and so on. You can also get a membership to a professional stock site like Shutterstock for as little as $29 a month, which is worth its weight in gold if you do lots of presentations.
6. Don’t make data dull
Having proof points for your argument is a brilliant way to get people to connect to what you are saying and believe it. However, don’t let them languish on the page. Data is a great opportunity to make presentations more effective and PPT offers many different charts and graphs to help bring those data points to life.
7. Find room for white space
If there is one thing every designer agrees on, it’s the need for white space. What’s not on the page is as important as what is on the page. Aside from being more aesthetically appealing, white space builds focal points and guides the reader around the slide. It makes content easily scannable and significantly improves legibility. Even if you absolutely cannot cut content, find new ways to organize it so that you can incorporate white space and let your slide breathe.
8. Avoid animations
9. Make copy visually interesting
A white background with plain old bullets is oh so boring. But you don’t have to incorporate imagery to make a great slide. If you don’t have an in-house designer, glean ideas from what the pros are doing. Duarte Design is the heavy hitter when it comes to presentations so check out the examples on their website. Or google “creative presentation design ideas“. Better still, check out our previous blog on how to turn bullets into visually compelling content.
10. Keep tables clean
When it comes to design, more is not more. Think of the tables you create for your PPTs. Do the words “simple” and “clean” come to mind or the words “busy” and “crowded”? Tables, like everything else, should be kept as simple as possible – so long as they still communicate of course. Get rid of unnecessary borders, outlines, and colors, and use symbols when possible. Otherwise, it looks like your designer is on holiday. Or worse.
11. Get creative
I know it’s not everyone’s forte but the best way to make presentations more effective is to visually interpret the information you want to express. Charts and graphs are great but if you have a presentation full of them, they too can get boring. I don’t suggest letting your inner designer run amuck but again scanning the web for inspiration can help immensely.
12. Minimize transitions
People often think that transitions are a great way to add excitement to a PPT. I am here to tell you that they are not. Transitions are distracting and childish. Flashes, page curls, breaking glass, and glitter are all best left on the editing floor. They have no place in the boardroom. If, however, you absolutely must use a transition, pick one. Make it a subtle one. And use it throughout your presentation.
One of my favorite sayings when it comes to creating a PPT is, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. Technology is great but don’t let it fall into the wrong hands. The very best designers make presentations effective by keeping things clean and simple and so should you.