Designing PowerPoint Presentations: The Dos and Don’ts of Presentation Design

Monday, March 6, 2023

Designing PowerPoint Presentations

No matter what your field of business is, if you spend time in the corporate world, you’ll have to accept that PowerPoint presentations are part of life. Some presentations are informative and helpful, while others feel tortuous, confusing, and ultimately a huge waste of time. And who wants that?

For many, it’s easier to say “Let’s just make a PowerPoint” than it is to say “Let’s make a great-looking, smooth PowerPoint.” That’s a shame, because a bad PowerPoint presentation is a liability. As a leading digital design firm, we’ve seen hundreds of PowerPoint presentations over the years, and we’ve fixed many of them.

Today, we are going to share with you some of the major design dos and don’ts for professional PowerPoint presentations.

Do: Consider How Your Presentation Will Be Viewed

Before you get started making your slides, think about how they are going to be presented. Will you be presenting it live at work? Are you presenting it over Zoom? Will you record it so that people can watch it asynchronously on their own time? Is it for internal use only, or will it be seen by a larger and more varied audience? Will you have to deal with tricky technology like lapel mics or unstable internet connections?

You should also consider your audience. Who are they? Will it consist of your colleagues or potential clients? Is your audience made up of your peers, or are people outside of your demographic? What is your audience’s background knowledge about your presentation topic?

Every aspect of your PowerPoint presentation should be tailored to your audience’s expectations and needs, so before you get past the title slide, think about how to reach your audience.

Don’t: Break the Master Slide

Many people don’t know how to use the master PowerPoint slide. The master slide is used to apply the same layout, fonts, styles, images, and placeholders to multiple slides in a PowerPoint presentation. A slide can have multiple layouts, which are visible in the layout panel of your PowerPoint window.

Unless you really know what you’re doing, leave the master slide alone and make changes to individual slides instead. When you make changes to the master slide, the changes are applied to the entire presentation. These changes can easily be broken when the file is transferred to another user, making it more complicated for other people to edit your slides.

Do: Stay Organized

Before you begin creating slides, have a clear idea of what to say and how to say it. This will help you organize your content and create a logical flow for the presentation. Creating an outline is a great way to keep your presentation organized; you can even repurpose it for your first slide so your audience knows what to expect.

Before you give your presentation, go over the organizational structure. As your presentation develops, it can be easy to lose sight of your original plans. Compare the finished product to your outline. Does it meet the objectives you created when you were first organizing your presentation? Have you added too much? Are there irrelevancies you can cut? Are there places where you need to add more? Ask yourself these questions and make sure that your PowerPoint does exactly what you need it to do.

Don’t: Ignore The Review Panel

Spell Check isn’t the only proofreading feature included with PowerPoint! The “Review” tab has several features to improve your presentation. It automatically comes with a thesaurus, dictionary, commenting system, accessibility checker, and automatic translator. Be sure to check your slides as you go and make sure that everything looks correct!

Do: Be Consistent

When you’re creating a PowerPoint, use a consistent design throughout the presentation. There should be a consistent color palette, font, and layout for all slides.

Your company likely has a master template or preferred preset templates to use; if not, stick with a color palette and design scheme that is elegant, simple, and easy on the eyes. If you are making a presentation that represents your business, use branding whenever appropriate.

Don’t: Use Crazy Fonts

Some mistakenly think that to make a PowerPoint presentation memorable, they should use a “fun” font. Don’t do this!

Using a nonstandard font has many drawbacks. It can:

  • Make the presentation inaccessible to members of your audience
  • Detract from your company’s branding
  • Make your slides visually unappealing and difficult to read
  • Break the PowerPoint/ruin the formatting

Let’s say you’re using a Microsoft PC to design your presentation, and you choose the font “Jokerman.” You send the presentation to your colleague who uses a Mac. Suddenly your presentation doesn’t look at all like you wanted it to, because Macs don’t have that font installed as a default. Now your text boxes are out of alignment, your captions are the wrong size, and your titles are all over the place.

You could have avoided this by using a standard font. If you’re making a corporate PowerPoint, consult your company’s guidelines or see what fonts are used in other presentations. Stick to those.

Do: Keep Your Text Concise

Keep the text on your slides concise and to the point. Use bullet points and short phrases to make it easy to read. Too much text is distracting to your audience, taking their attention away from the important elements of your presentation. PowerPoint experts often say that you should have only 6 words per line and 6 lines per slide.

But what if you need to have a text-heavy presentation?

If that’s the case, there are things you can do to make it look good so it’s not overwhelming for your audience. Break your content into smaller sections to make it easier for your audience to skim and understand what they’re reading. Keep your paragraphs short, and use color and layout to break up your text. Use a limited palette of contrasting colors to separate subheadings from the main body of text, along with bold or strong styling for your subheadings.

Another trick is to play with line spacing. If you set your line spacing to 1.2-1.5 instead of 1, it adds a bit more space in between lines of text. This makes the presentation much easier to read!

Don’t: Overdesign

We frequently see people getting too enthusiastic about design elements on their slides. Unfortunately, it’s easy to go overboard and create slide decks that look fun… but are totally unprofessional. Instead, keep the design simple and consistent throughout the presentation.

Use a limited color palette and stick to a consistent layout for all slides. This will make your presentation look polished and professional. While animations and special effects may be tempting, you should avoid them for the most part.

Do: Use High Quality Images and Graphics

Images and graphics are a great way to convey information, but what looks good on your screen might look grainy or fuzzy when projected. Use high-resolution vector graphics and images that will stay sharp at any size to ensure that your presentation looks sleek when it’s blown up on the big screen.

While graphics and images are a great way to break up text, it’s important to use them appropriately. Too many images can be overwhelming and make your presentation look cluttered. This is especially true if you have the images arranged on top of each other. Modern editions of the PowerPoint software have guides, rulers, and image arrangement suggestions to help keep your slides neat and organized.

If you’re planning to use stock images, make sure that you are using free stock or that your company has a license for the stock you want to use. Nothing looks more unprofessional than a watermarked image– it shows that you didn’t take the time to find something you had permission to use!

Don’t: Use Memes

If your business is primarily online or you’re presenting virtually, you may be tempted to use memes in your presentation. Memes are funny, but not always appropriate for a business PowerPoint presentation. Memes are often used in a casual or informal setting and may not be perceived as professional in a business setting.

Using memes in a PowerPoint presentation may make the presentation appear less serious or credible. Memes might be irrelevant to the content of your presentation, or not understood by all the members of your audience. If you do have an appropriate meme that you want to use, you can– but think very carefully about why you want to use it.

Do: Keep It Simple

The best PowerPoint slide decks are simple; much sparser than the actual “meat” of the presentation. This is because slide decks are not the entire presentation! They are meant to be visual aids. The slides shouldn’t convey the total information available in the presentation. For example, if you’re describing sales trends, don’t include the textual description on the slide. Instead, dedicate that space to a clear graph that your audience can refer to as you are giving the presentation.

The cardinal sin of presentations is reading your slides aloud. Having the entire script on your slide will only distract the audience from what you’re saying.

They’ll react one of two ways:

  • They’ll try to read the slide in advance (instead of listening to what you’re saying)
  • They’ll play “catch up” the whole time, reading only half the slide before you’re ready to move on

Instead, keep your slides simple so that your audience can focus on what you are saying and follow along easily.

Don’t: Choose Colors Randomly

Color is an important part of your PowerPoint presentation. If your company has brand colors they want to use, stick to those. If you have artistic liberty to choose colors, pick colors that look good together and are easily legible. Highly saturated colors can be painful to look at, especially if you’re using yellow. Likewise, certain color color combinations, like yellow and white, are uncomfortable to look at.

Color can also be an accessibility issue; it is estimated that 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women are colorblind. In total, that’s about 4.5% of the world’s population. Certain color choices might look good to you, but be impossible to read for a colorblind colleague. Fortunately, there are lots of design tips and options for colorblind-friendly color palettes if this is a concern!

Do: Use The Notes Section

PowerPoint has several features that make it easier to give a seamless presentation. One of these is the notes that you can see when you present in Presenter View. The notes section (again, not the slides themselves) is the appropriate place to write out your script. If you’re presenting from behind your laptop or tablet, the notes will be visible to only you, and you won’t need notecards.

It also comes in handy for those who missed the presentation. If your colleagues want to review what you said or somebody else needs to give the presentation at another time, you can pass the presentation along to them and they’ll be able to see the notes.

Follow these tips for the most professional PowerPoints possible (short of having us do it, of course)!

If you want more advice, Matcha Design is here to help. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help your business!

About Matcha Design

Matcha Design is a full-service creative B2B agency with decades of experience executing its client’s visions. The award-winning company specializes in web design, logo design, branding, marketing campaign, print, UX/UI, video production, commercial photography, advertising, and more. Matcha Design upholds the highest personal standards for excellence and can see things from a unique perspective due to its multicultural background.  The company consistently delivers custom, high-quality, innovative solutions to its clients using technical savvy and endless creativity. For more information, visit MatchaDesign.com.

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