Don’t Create Another PPT Until You Read This
People tend to say, “I hate PowerPoint!” or, “Uggh, another PowerPoint presentation.”
Well, I’m here to say that I love PowerPoint, and if you can’t work with PowerPoint, then alternative platforms that promise to be more engaging and interesting are not going to help you! In fact, alternative presentation web software like Prezi, Slidebean or PowToon require the same amount of attention that PowerPoint does in order for your presentations to be any good.
PowerPoints are often terrible because we are lazy.
We slap in some screenshots, and grab some internet images (more on that in a bit) and call it a day. When your audience can’t read the small print on the screen, make out the screenshot, or wonder why you have watermarks across your images that say Shutterstock (oops), you cannot be surprised when they check out of your presentation.
You can instantly increase the value of your everyday PowerPoints by implementing some simple best practices.
- Font size on a PPT should never, ever be less than 14pt text
- Heading text should be a minimum of 28pt when using a standard font (Arial, Calibri), optimally 36pt or greater
- Slide text should be a minimum of 18pt, optimally 24pt
Amount of Text
Follow the Maximum 6×9 rule:
- Maximum of 6 bullet points and maximum 9 words per point (ideally, less)
- Word count does not include it, is, and, the, or, to, be, etc.
- This includes your space for a secondary heading (see the examples)
Less is more, unless we are talking about calories.
In the sample below, the point is digestible, visually interesting and makes an impact that won’t be overlooked.
Include Interesting, Relevant Images
Images speak louder than words!
If you’re using PowerPoint, chances are you will be speaking to the content, unless you are using this tool for reporting (which I’ve seen, and which is a totally separate topic altogether). Even if it’s not strictly a traditional presentation, you will likely still be describing the relevance of each slide. Images engage your audience, so use them more than words!
Tips to Place Images
- A balanced slide will have an image on 1/3 of the screen (when an image is appropriate)
- Break up your presentation by adding in slides focused solely on an image with little or no text
- Graphic elements, icons or backgrounds can balance text in the same way an image does. Try using them when there is no relevant image available, but the slide needs a little something
- Have numbered steps? Why not use number images instead of the default text list to create interest?
Even I will admit – at times you can’t get around using screenshots. Follow these tips to make the best possible slide:
DON’T just take a large screenshot and paste it into your slide.
DON’T try to speak to an entire process using one screenshot.
DO create a focused, zoomed in and relevant screenshot.
DON’T print screen your entire desktop.
DO use a tool like SnagIt to create a quality screen capture.
DON’T shove a small screenshot into a space that fits it.
DO create a slide based around the screenshot, allowing it to take center stage (and up to 3/4 of the slide space)
Buy Your Images, Please
Just because it’s on the Internet does not mean that it belongs to you! If you are a corporate entity that makes money, you should have a stock photo account of some kind. It’s a monetary drop in the bucket that will go a long way to increase the visual appeal and professionalism of your presentations.
Use Vectors, Not Clipart
I’m always amazed at how many people still use 90s clipart in their presentations (where are they getting it?) and comic clippings from the newspaper. Trust me, there are better ways to get a laugh and engage your audience. Check out these cute and engaging photographic images.
Also, clipart is tricky. Many times, it can come off looking tacky and unprofessional. To avoid all pitfalls, if you can’t use a genuine photographic image, use a vector image or illustration.
This is my favorite change in recent years for PowerPoint. These days, many people have wide screen laptops and displays. Give yourself more room by switching to the 16:9 slide size, instead of the 4:3 standard size.
If you’re not sure where to find this setting, navigate to the Design tab > Slide Size: