8 tips to make the best powerpoint presentations.
Want to make your PowerPoint presentations really shine? Here's how to impress and engage your audience.
Table of contents, start with a goal, less is more, consider your typeface, make bullet points count, limit the use of transitions, skip text where possible, think in color, take a look from the top down, bonus: start with templates.
Slideshows are an intuitive way to share complex ideas with an audience, although they're dull and frustrating when poorly executed. Here are some tips to make your Microsoft PowerPoint presentations sing while avoiding common pitfalls.
It all starts with identifying what we're trying to achieve with the presentation. Is it informative, a showcase of data in an easy-to-understand medium? Or is it more of a pitch, something meant to persuade and convince an audience and lead them to a particular outcome?
It's here where the majority of these presentations go wrong with the inability to identify the talking points that best support our goal. Always start with a goal in mind: to entertain, to inform, or to share data in a way that's easy to understand. Use facts, figures, and images to support your conclusion while keeping structure in mind (Where are we now and where are we going?).
I've found that it's helpful to start with the ending. Once I know how to end a presentation, I know how best to get to that point. I start by identifying the takeaway---that one nugget that I want to implant before thanking everyone for their time---and I work in reverse to figure out how best to get there.
Your mileage, of course, may vary. But it's always going to be a good idea to put in the time in the beginning stages so that you aren't reworking large portions of the presentation later. And that starts with a defined goal.
A slideshow isn't supposed to include everything. It's an introduction to a topic, one that we can elaborate on with speech. Anything unnecessary is a distraction. It makes the presentation less visually appealing and less interesting, and it makes you look bad as a presenter.
This goes for text as well as images. There's nothing worse, in fact, than a series of slides where the presenter just reads them as they appear. Your audience is capable of reading, and chances are they'll be done with the slide, and browsing Reddit, long before you finish. Avoid putting the literal text on the screen, and your audience will thank you.
Related: How to Burn Your PowerPoint to DVD
Right off the bat, we're just going to come out and say that Papyrus and Comic Sans should be banned from all PowerPoint presentations, permanently. Beyond that, it's worth considering the typeface you're using and what it's saying about you, the presenter, and the presentation itself.
Consider choosing readability over aesthetics, and avoid fancy fonts that could prove to be more of a distraction than anything else. A good presentation needs two fonts: a serif and sans-serif. Use one for the headlines and one for body text, lists, and the like. Keep it simple. Veranda, Helvetica, Arial, and even Times New Roman are safe choices. Stick with the classics and it's hard to botch this one too badly.
There reaches a point where bullet points become less of a visual aid and more of a visual examination.
Bullet points should support the speaker, not overwhelm his audience. The best slides have little or no text at all, in fact. As a presenter, it's our job to talk through complex issues, but that doesn't mean that we need to highlight every talking point.
Instead, think about how you can break up large lists into three or four bullet points. Carefully consider whether you need to use more bullet points, or if you can combine multiple topics into a single point instead. And if you can't, remember that there's no one limiting the number of slides you can have in a presentation. It's always possible to break a list of 12 points down into three pages of four points each.
Animation, when used correctly, is a good idea. It breaks up slow-moving parts of a presentation and adds action to elements that require it. But it should be used judiciously.
Adding a transition that wipes left to right between every slide or that animates each bullet point in a list, for example, starts to grow taxing on those forced to endure the presentation. Viewers get bored quickly, and animations that are meant to highlight specific elements quickly become taxing.
That's not to say that you can't use animations and transitions, just that you need to pick your spots. Aim for no more than a handful of these transitions for each presentation. And use them in spots where they'll add to the demonstration, not detract from it.
Sometimes images tell a better story than text can. And as a presenter, your goal is to describe points in detail without making users do a lot of reading. In these cases, a well-designed visual, like a chart, might better convey the information you're trying to share.
The right image adds visual appeal and serves to break up longer, text-heavy sections of the presentation---but only if you're using the right images. A single high-quality image can make all the difference between a success and a dud when you're driving a specific point home.
When considering text, don't think solely in terms of bullet points and paragraphs. Tables, for example, are often unnecessary. Ask yourself whether you could present the same data in a bar or line chart instead.
Color is interesting. It evokes certain feelings and adds visual appeal to your presentation as a whole. Studies show that color also improves interest, comprehension, and retention. It should be a careful consideration, not an afterthought.
You don't have to be a graphic designer to use color well in a presentation. What I do is look for palettes I like, and then find ways to use them in the presentation. There are a number of tools for this, like Adobe Color , Coolors , and ColorHunt , just to name a few. After finding a palette you enjoy, consider how it works with the presentation you're about to give. Pastels, for example, evoke feelings of freedom and light, so they probably aren't the best choice when you're presenting quarterly earnings that missed the mark.
It's also worth mentioning that you don't need to use every color in the palette. Often, you can get by with just two or three, though you should really think through how they all work together and how readable they'll be when layered. A simple rule of thumb here is that contrast is your friend. Dark colors work well on light backgrounds, and light colors work best on dark backgrounds.
Spend some time in the Slide Sorter before you finish your presentation. By clicking the four squares at the bottom left of the presentation, you can take a look at multiple slides at once and consider how each works together. Alternatively, you can click "View" on the ribbon and select "Slide Sorter."
Are you presenting too much text at once? Move an image in. Could a series of slides benefit from a chart or summary before you move on to another point?
It's here that we have the opportunity to view the presentation from beyond the single-slide viewpoint and think in terms of how each slide fits, or if it fits at all. From this view, you can rearrange slides, add additional ones, or delete them entirely if you find that they don't advance the presentation.
The difference between a good presentation and a bad one is really all about preparation and execution. Those that respect the process and plan carefully---not only the presentation as a whole, but each slide within it---are the ones who will succeed.
This brings me to my last (half) point: When in doubt, just buy a template and use it. You can find these all over the web, though Creative Market and GraphicRiver are probably the two most popular marketplaces for this kind of thing. Not all of us are blessed with the skills needed to design and deliver an effective presentation. And while a pre-made PowerPoint template isn't going to make you a better presenter, it will ease the anxiety of creating a visually appealing slide deck.
Basic tasks for creating a PowerPoint presentation
PowerPoint presentations work like slide shows. To convey a message or a story, you break it down into slides. Think of each slide as a blank canvas for the pictures and words that help you tell your story.
Choose a theme
When you open PowerPoint, you’ll see some built-in themes and templates . A theme is a slide design that contains matching colors, fonts, and special effects like shadows, reflections, and more.
On the File tab of the Ribbon, select New , and then choose a theme.
PowerPoint shows you a preview of the theme, with four color variations to choose from on the right side.
Click Create , or pick a color variation and then click Create .
Read more: Use or create themes in PowerPoint
Insert a new slide
On the Home tab, click the bottom half of New Slide , and pick a slide layout.
Read more: Add, rearrange, and delete slides .
Save your presentation
On the File tab, choose Save .
Pick or browse to a folder.
In the File name box, type a name for your presentation, and then choose Save .
Note: If you frequently save files to a certain folder, you can ‘pin’ the path so that it is always available (as shown below).
Tip: Save your work as you go. Press Ctrl+S often or save the file to OneDrive and let AutoSave take care of it for you.
Read more: Save your presentation file
Select a text placeholder, and begin typing.
Format your text
Select the text.
Under Drawing Tools , choose Format .
Do one of the following:
To change the color of your text, choose Text Fill , and then choose a color.
To change the outline color of your text, choose Text Outline , and then choose a color.
To apply a shadow, reflection, glow, bevel, 3-D rotation, a transform, choose Text Effects , and then choose the effect you want.
Change the fonts
Change the color of text on a slide
Add bullets or numbers to text
Format text as superscript or subscript
On the Insert tab, select Pictures , then do one of the following:
To insert a picture that is saved on your local drive or an internal server, choose This Device , browse for the picture, and then choose Insert .
(For Microsoft 365 subscribers) To insert a picture from our library, choose Stock Images , browse for a picture, select it and choose Insert .
To insert a picture from the web, choose Online Pictures , and use the search box to find a picture. Choose a picture, and then click Insert .
You can add shapes to illustrate your slide.
On the Insert tab, select Shapes , and then select a shape from the menu that appears.
In the slide area, click and drag to draw the shape.
Select the Format or Shape Format tab on the ribbon. Open the Shape Styles gallery to quickly add a color and style (including shading) to the selected shape.
Add speaker notes
Slides are best when you don’t cram in too much information. You can put helpful facts and notes in the speaker notes, and refer to them as you present.
Click inside the Notes pane below the slide, and begin typing your notes.
Add speaker notes to your slides
Print slides with or without speaker notes
Give your presentation
On the Slide Show tab, do one of the following:
To start the presentation at the first slide, in the Start Slide Show group, click From Beginning .
If you’re not at the first slide and want to start from where you are, click From Current Slide .
If you need to present to people who are not where you are, click Present Online to set up a presentation on the web, and then choose one of the following options:
Broadcast your PowerPoint presentation online to a remote audience
View your speaker notes as you deliver your slide show.
Get out of Slide Show view
To get out of Slide Show view at any time, on the keyboard, press Esc .
You can quickly apply a theme when you're starting a new presentation:
On the File tab, click New .
Select a theme.
Read more: Apply a design theme to your presentation
In the slide thumbnail pane on the left, select the slide that you want your new slide to follow.
On the Home tab, select the lower half of New Slide .
From the menu, select the layout that you want for your new slide.
Your new slide is inserted, and you can click inside a placeholder to begin adding content.
Learn more about slide layouts
Read more: Add, rearrange, and delete slides
PowerPoint for the web automatically saves your work to your OneDrive, in the cloud.
To change the name of the automatically saved file:
In the title bar, click the file name.
In the File Name box, enter the name you want to apply to the file.
If you want to change the cloud storage location, at the right end of the Location box, click the arrow symbol, then navigate to the folder you want, then select Move here .
On the Home tab, use the Font options:
Select from other formatting options such as Bold , Italic , Underline , Strikethrough , Subscript , and Superscript .
On the Insert tab, select Pictures .
From the menu, select where you want to insert the picture from:
Browse to the image you want, select it, then select Insert .
After the image is inserted on the slide, you can select it and drag to reposition it, and you can select and drag a corner handle to resize the image.
On the slide canvas, click and drag to draw the shape.
Select the Shape tab on the ribbon. Open the Shape Styles gallery to quickly add a color and style (including shading) to the selected shape.
A horizontal Notes pane appears at the bottom of the window, below the slide.
Click in the pane, then enter text.
On the Slide Show tab, select Play From Beginning .
To navigate through the slides, simply click the mouse or press the spacebar.
Tip: You can also use the forward and back arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate through the slide show.
Read more: Present your slide show
Stop a slide show
To get out of Slide Show view at any time, on the keyboard, press Esc.
The full-screen slide show will close, and you will be returned to the editing view of the file.
Tips for creating an effective presentation
Consider the following tips to keep your audience interested.
Minimize the number of slides
To maintain a clear message and to keep your audience attentive and interested, keep the number of slides in your presentation to a minimum.
Choose an audience-friendly font size
The audience must be able to read your slides from a distance. Generally speaking, a font size smaller than 30 might be too difficult for the audience to see.
Keep your slide text simple
You want your audience to listen to you present your information, instead of reading the screen. Use bullets or short sentences, and try to keep each item to one line.
Some projectors crop slides at the edges, so that long sentences might be cropped.
Use visuals to help express your message
Pictures, charts, graphs, and SmartArt graphics provide visual cues for your audience to remember. Add meaningful art to complement the text and messaging on your slides.
As with text, however, avoid including too many visual aids on your slide.
Make labels for charts and graphs understandable
Use only enough text to make label elements in a chart or graph comprehensible.
Apply subtle, consistent slide backgrounds
Choose an appealing, consistent template or theme that is not too eye-catching. You don't want the background or design to detract from your message.
However, you also want to provide a contrast between the background color and text color. The built-in themes in PowerPoint set the contrast between a light background with dark colored text or dark background with light colored text.
For more information about how to use themes, see Apply a theme to add color and style to your presentation .
Check the spelling and grammar
To earn and maintain the respect of your audience, always check the spelling and grammar in your presentation .
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