You may be an old hand with PowerPoint. You may be the main person crafting the slides, and you may even be the one who actually has to get up and present. Or maybe you’ve never touched it and it’s sitting in your applications folder, mocking you. Either way, whether you think you know it all or you think you know nothing, think again.
1. Fonts: Use One Everyone Has, Unless . . .
Why is this important? If you are the only one ever delivering your presentation, on your computer, then you can get a little more creative in the font choice department. But if you are creating a presentation for anyone else to use, especially if on a different computer, the way your text displays can be a toss-up. You don’t want to be in front of your audience before you find out that your carefully crafted wording has now run off the page or overlaps other text because those are just a couple of the ways that fonts can go wrong when using a computer that doesn’t have the font you intended.
If you use the basic fonts that Windows and Mac computers have in common—Arial, Georgia, Verdana—you can’t go wrong. (See our previous article: Website Fonts that Go Beyond the Basics.) To that I would venture to add fonts that come with Microsoft, like Calibri. It’s a nice alternative and looks well both bolded and in italics.
2. Slide Masters: There For a Reason
This could honestly be an entire article on its own. The Slide Masters are your friends. If you use them well, they will save you countless hours of trying to use common elements and keep things consistent. Think of them as your style guide.*
Acquaint yourself with the different kinds of Slide Masters there are. You can have multiple masters, or stick to the basics. Whatever you do, plan them well. Do it right and you will not only save yourself countless hours of changes and tweaks, but your overall file sizes will be smaller because you’ll only be using that corporate logo once on the main master slide instead of copying it and pasting it to dozens of individual slides.
3. Sound Effects and Animation: Not Necessary
The quickest way to spot a newbie is the use of ALL THE EFFECTS! Just because you can use them, doesn't mean that you should. The power of your message should come through in just that—the message itself. If you require a camera sound effect or a scrambled title to make your point, you may need to rethink what your message is.
Are all effects created equal? Of course not. The subtle and judicious use of certain effects can add depth to your presentation. But make absolutely certain that it adds something to your presentation, and doesn’t detract (or distract). Also keep in mind that different versions of PowerPoint may not have the latest effects you have on your computer. As noted above in point 1, unless you’re presenting on your own computer, you may run into incompatibility issues.
4. “Autofit Text” Feature: Turn it Off
Hopefully, you will never ever have to use this, because you will put the right amount of words on a slide (see below). But should you decide that only a bulleted list will do, make sure you disable “Fit to slide” option. And of course, you’ve already set up all of the correct paragraph styles in your Slide Master, right? So they’ll look good every time.
5. Content: Less is More
...if you use the right words and the right images. Best practices say to maintain a maximum of three bullet points per slide. Additional bullets may appear on the next slide. When text is too small and a venue is large, there is a danger that the audience may not be able to read (or see) the point being made. And even if they can see them to read it, you don’t want them reading instead of listening to you. Employ the use of infographics and a more stylistic approach, leading the viewer to focus on the next idea and not individual words. Don’t be afraid to use more than one slide.
*Seriously, another entire article. Your Slide Masters should ensure that everyone who uses your template is presenting a unified and consistent font and look across the board.