With over 30 million PowerPoint presentations made each day, this indispensable software has long been integrated into our everyday lives, whether for educational purposes or work. We often turn to this handy software when we need to introduce certain ideas to a group of people, as a thousand-word report can easily be condensed into a visual presentation. The experience a good PowerPoint deck provides can effectively engage the audience; aiding them in quickly understanding the material being conveyed, and easing what would have otherwise been a tedious process for both speaker and audience.

Presentations can also act as notes or reminders for the speaker, and the natural confidence that comes from knowing the script paves the way for a captivating performance. But here’s the thing — most of us know the benefits of having great presentations, the only question is how. How do we make a good PowerPoint deck that is effective, without sacrificing too much of our time?

How To Make a Good PowerPoint Presentation

Trust us, it’s easier than it sounds. We’re giving you 9 hacks to help you get started.

1. It’s All About the Design

Fancy fonts and flashy animations? Pretty cool, but if you’re keeping it professional and stylish, leave that behind for now. Avoid cheesy effects and focus on simple designs as a deck with minimal clutter and distractions work best in capturing your audience’s attention. This is particularly important when what they have to pay attention to, is distinctive. Keep three things in mind:

  • Use only fonts that are easy to read. Sans serif fonts like Arial, Helvetica, or Calibri are the easiest to read on screens. If you want to spice things up, use decorative fonts for slide headers, but make sure they’re legible, even from afar.
  • Use dark text on a light background. Research has proven that dark text on a light background is the best combination as white stimulates focus in the eye, and allows smoother absorption of information.
  • Align text left or right. Aligning all text to a baseline makes it easier for the audience to follow, gives the presentation a neater look overall.

2. Customize Your Theme

There is a reason why we get bored when we see the standard templates from PowerPoint — they’ve been used far too many times. A slide deck that is visually similar to what an audience has seen repeatedly will not appear fresh or interesting, making information retention and engagement that much harder to achieve. To avoid a cookie-cutter and forgettable presentation, you can either create your own template, purchase professional ones online, or download free ones from the internet (psst, we help companies create templates too!).

If you’re clueless on how to create and save your own template, instructions can be found on the official Microsoft website.

3. Conciseness is Key

Avoid overwhelming the audience with too many things all at once. A good PowerPoint presentation has both visual and verbal brevity, allowing the audience to remain focused on one point at a time. Instead of packing all the information into one slide, spread them evenly across a few slides to avoid distracting or confusing the audience. If you have a lot of information and data that needs to be shared with the audience, prepare a separate set of documents for them to review, or send out the slides with greater detail after the presentation.

4. More Images, Less Text

If someone tells you about a giant chicken crossing a road, in your head, would you think of an animal walking against traffic, or the words itself? Chances are, you’ll conjure an image in your head, as ridiculous as it sounds.

There’s a reason for that. As humans, we generally prefer visuals over text — in fact, the combination of a great visual accompanied by a short list of brief bullet points increases the chances of information making it to long-term memory. Be sure to use only high-quality images as they are the ones that will help you make an impression on the audience. Either resize or replace images that are too small or they might become overly stretched-out.

5. Use the Great Alignment Feature

Properly aligning your images, texts, and anything else that is on your slide instantly makes it look neater and more professional. While manually aligning everything is an option, our aim here is to get the deck done in the shortest amount of time. Here’s where PowerPoint helps you out; there is an amazing feature that effortlessly makes the magic happen.

To align multiple objects:

  1. Select all objects by holding down ‘Shift’ and clicking on all of them.
  2. Select ‘Arrange’ in the top options bar, then choose ‘Align or Distribute’.
  3. Choose whichever alignment works best for you.

That wasn’t hard, was it? Keep this little trick with you, especially if you can’t stand having slide elements just slightly off-centre.

6. Know the Power of Colors

Colors are amazing, and they can do wonders to a presentation. Studies have shown that colors can not only increase interest, but also improve learning comprehension and retention rate. Cool colors (such as blue and green) are better suited to be used for the background as they have the illusion of fading away from us, whereas warm colors (such as orange and red) are better used for objects in the foreground as they appear to be coming toward us. Good PowerPoint presentations make use of colors effectively to achieve various outcomes, such as highlighting messages or ideas that the audience needs to focus on, or pushing less relevant data into the background.

While it is exciting to play with different combinations of colors on a slide, for simplicity, keep it to a maximum of three colors; one for your background, one for your text, and one to highlight any important information.

7. Remember the 2/4/8 Rule

If you’re worried about content and how it should be placed or split up, a simple way to remember is the 2/4/8 rule from Hugh Culver:

  • No more than one slide every 2 minutes
  • No more than 4 bullets per slide
  • No more than 8 words per bullet

This is not a rigid system; if your presentation is only 5 minutes, having only one slide every 2 minutes might not be enough. You’ll need to trust your instincts and modify accordingly, keeping in mind that brevity is key.

8. Use Charts

Data is beautiful, but not when it’s squeezed into a slide that forces your audience to rack their brains in an attempt to comprehend it. If data is a necessity in your presentation, extract only the necessary information and display these numbers in graphic form instead. It is essential to choose the right kind of charts for your data, as different charts bring across different messages.

Look, data can be beautiful too! =)

  • Pie Charts. They are mainly used to present percentages. Contrast the most important slice either with a conflicting colour or by separating it from the rest of the slices.
  • Vertical Bar Charts. They can effectively reflect changes in quantity of two groups (or more) over time, but it is ideal to limit the bars to not more than 8.
  • Horizontal Bar Charts. They are best used for comparison between different groups.
  • Line Charts. They are used to reflect actual trends, or predict possible trends.

9. Organize Your Slides

The slide sorter function often goes ignored, but in fact, it is extremely useful in organizing the entire flow of your presentation and helping you look out for any extraneous information that might be removed to improve the overall clarity. Take a step back and run through your slides as you would from someone who is seeing it all for the first time. Process all the content being fed as your harshest critic—focus on coming up with the best and most logical flow and remove anything that might prove distracting or unnecessary in helping you understand a certain point.

In a generation so highly dependent on the use of technology, it is crucial that we understand the rules of the playing field and are able to manipulate technology well enough to suit our needs. These simple hacks are what you need to create a powerful presentation quickly and effectively. Just remember:

  1. It’s All About the Design
  2. Customize Your Theme
  3. Conciseness is Key
  4. More Images, Less Text
  5. Use the Great Alignment Feature
  6. Know the Power of Colors
  7. Remember the 2/4/8 Rule
  8. Use Charts
  9. Organize Your Slides

With all these in mind, you’re good to go. Have fun creating your slides!

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Huiru Chng

Huiru is an undergraduate majoring in English Literature who spends just about all her free time reading and writing. Her ideal day doesn't get any better than lazing in bed with a cup of tea while it's pouring outside.

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