20 Top PowerPoint Design Tips

In order to create an amazing PowerPoint presentation, you have to learn the process of effective presentation design. After four years of blogging, I’ve written a number of posts designed to help presenters create better, visually engaging and effective PowerPoint presentations. As all blogs posts do, some resonated better than others and often provided great discussion in the comments.

Instead of forcing you to sift through my site, page after page, I have aggregated 20 of my best blog posts, including the five most viewed post written in 2011, to help you become a better PowerPoint presentation designer. Post types include specific presentation design techniques, book reviews, tips, methods, and more.

So without further adieu, here are the best PowerPoint presentation design posts from Presentation Advisors to make you a better presentation designer in 2012.

The 5 Most Viewed Posts in 2011:

  1. 20 Steps to Become a Presentation Design Hero – There’s no set path to become a presentation designer, but here are a few steps I’ve taken to get where I am today.
  2. 5 Tips to Perfect Your Slideshare Presentation – SlideShare has been a godsend for sharing PowerPoint presentations, PDFs and more. But just because Slideshare is a good platform, does not mean your presentation will be seen without some extra work. Follow these tips to make sure it looks great.
  3. Alternatives to PowerPoint – I write a lot about PowerPoint design, but it’s not the end-all-be-all to effective presentations. Here are a few options if you’d like to take a different route.
  4. 5 Reasons Your Last Presentation Bombed – Yes, presenting isn’t all rainbows and smiles. Some of them don’t go as planned, and others flat out bomb (whether you realize it or not). It happens to the best of us, even me. Here’s a few reasons why that may have happened.
  5. If No Bullets in My PowerPoint, Then What? –  If you read a lot of presentation blogs, you’ve heard numerous authors (including myself) preach about the necessary demise of bullet points in PowerPoint. However, one common complaint of readers (rightfully so) was that there were few specific alternatives. Here are over a dozen.Here are the rest of my top blog posts:
  1. 5 Ways to Start Your Presentation Off Strong – You’ve got seconds to grab your audience’s attention, and only a few minutes to keep it. Technology has made it even worse where you’re competing with audience members dual-tasking on their computers or smartphones. Learn how to grab their attention quickly in this post.
  2. 100 Presentation Tips – Here are 100+ presentation tips for preparation, design and delivery to make your next presentation your best, as well as a few extra submitted by readers. There’s a link to download the list as a PDF as well, which you’re welcome to pass along.
  3. PowerPoint Design Methods – There’s much discussion about the best PowerPoint design method.  How many slides should be used?  What font size?  How fast should I transition through them?  I’ve insisted that there is no right PowerPoint method. This post includes a few popular PowerPoint presentation design methods and theories that have worked well for some established presenters.
  4. The Best Presentation Design Tool – Here I reveal my most useful tool to aid in finding effective presentation imagery. Best of all, it’s free.
  5. A New Spin on the Old Agenda Slide – I had just recently sat in on a presentation that used, like many others, a bullet-point agenda slide with black text on a white background.  I decided to show how, with just a few steps, an agenda slide could be improved [before and after images included].  I credit the inspiration to Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen method and an agenda slide I saw during a live presentation of his I attended.
  6. Breaking Down Steve Jobs’ WWDC Keynote Presentation – We all mourned the passing of Steve Jobs on October 5th, 2011. We’re all lucky to have lived while he changed the technology landscape again and again. In June of 2010, Steve Jobs took the stage for another magical keynote experience (not just a presentation). I decided to break it down for you all of you, highlighting his approach to the WWDC 2010 keynote presentation and what elements create the masterpieces we are used to seeing.
  7. PowerPoint Before and After – Various Slide Types – Often it’s useful to see not only the finished product, but the original product as well. In this post I show you some of my personal slide redesigns, including before and after shots with my commentary on the process of designing each slide.
  8. 5 Ways to WOW at Your Next Presentation – We’re all trying to find a way to rise above the rest – to separate ourselves from the crowd. There seems to be a common path that most presenters take, and the trail is painfully worn down. Use some of these tips to give your audience something they don’t expect at your next presentation.
  9. What’s Wrong with PowerPoint Templates? – Templates and me have a love-hate relationship.  I love to hate them…especially those found within PowerPoint (there are a few nice ones on Keynote).  It’s not necessarily the visual design, it’s the tired, played-out road that the templates bring most presenters down.  I wanted to write a post that not only highlighted some of the pitfalls of using a template, but also the advantages of going “freestyle.”  Some good comments as well.
  10. The Effective Use of White Space in Advertising – I’m a huge fan of utilizing white space (or blank space and isn’t necessarily white).  I wrote this post to highlight some great uses of white space in popular ads, as well as how it can be applied to presentation design.
  11. Book Review – Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina – One of my favorite books of 2009 was Brain Rules.  This book not only breaks down the mysteries of the brain using language that we all can understand, but many of the rules apply to presentation design (namely catching and keeping your audience’s attention).  In the post I highlighted three of those rules that you can apply to your presentation tomorrow.
  12. Reducing the Amount of Text on your PowerPoint Slides – When clients come to me, they often have a presentation completed, however it’s full of bullet points and absent any vibrant imagery. Here I walk you through the process of how I remove the text and add appropriate imagery, while still conveying the main idea of the slide.
  13. Book Review – The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs – Steve Jobs was one of the greatest presenters working the keynote stage. Carmine Gallo breaks down his presentation style and teaches you how to be great in front of any audience.
  14. 5 Bits of PowerPoint Advice that will Land You in Presentation Prison -Bad presentation design tips are a dime a dozen, and I’ve heard all the excuses.  Here are 5 bits of presentation advice that you should avoid at all costs.
  15. Perception and PowerPoint Design – Your audience may perceive you in many different ways.  Some may find you interesting, while others may be fighting to keep their eyelids open. Are your PowerPoint presentations leading the audience to perceive you in the wrong way?  
    About the Author:

    Jon Thomas is the founder of Presentation Advisors, a presentation design and training firm based in southern Connecticut. For more on his company’s services, visit his website at www.presentationadvisors.com

Occupy PowerPoint!

By Rick Altman

Living just 20 miles from Oakland, the city described as having the eyes of the nation upon it, I know all about protests. Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area during the ‘60s, when anti-Vietnam War demonstrations were the rule of the day, I understand the power of group emotion.

And given that “Death by PowerPoint” is a part of everyone’s vocabulary today, it comes as no surprise that community leaders have reached the following determination:

It’s time to occupy the software.

Three of the most active members of the user community have been busy creating a strategy for occupation. Steffen Ginsler, Richar Brett-Slider, and Eskimo Winsdorf have been pooling their expertise into a broad-based strategy to eliminate the abuses in our professional society once and for all.

An accomplished VBA developer, Ginsler has created a script that installs itself without the user’s knowledge and eliminates all layouts that contain bulleted text. “It is kind of like a friendly Trojan horse,” says the soft-spoken Ginsler. “It doesn’t do any real damage to your computer, but it prevents you from bringing harm to others — namely, the people in your audience.”

Winsdorf is not quite as reserved as her friend Steffen. “Hey, what do you expect us to do when all these people are acting like idiots?” she asks, without waiting for an answer. “It’s ridiculous that there are no safeguards to insure against crappy design and sloppy standards. It’s time we took matters into our own hands!”

And Eskimo has done just that with a proprietary and patent-pending JavaScript version of a PowerPoint template that prohibits all changes from the formatting set forth in the slide masters. If you try to reformat text, move a placeholder, or cover up critical design elements, you’ll receive an immediate error message. “I wanted the script to automatically format the hard drive, but the others wouldn’t go for that. Wimps…”

In the most interesting position is Brett-Slider, a former member of the PowerPoint development team. He persuaded his successors to modify the Animation engine with password protection on the following choices: Boomerang, Spiral, Zoom, and Bounce. If users attempt to apply any of them on a slide, the system intervenes and requires a written explanation of the usage.

The explanation is sent to a panel of presentation designers, led by Nancy Latte and Garth Sandals, for review. Within 24 hours, the panel issues a ruling on the appropriateness of its usage. Based on that ruling, the Animation task pane will either provide a password for entry or the animation choices in question will be permanently removed from the program.

“Some of my colleagues thought this might have been drastic,” said Richar in his characteristic baritone. (Richar’s brother couldn’t pronounce the “d” in “Richard” when he was young; Richar dropped the letter from his name in his brother’s honor.) “I assured them that it would be a great career move — everyone talks about bad PowerPoint but nobody does anything about it. This would be their big chance.”

Areas of the program yet to be occupied include sound effects attached to slide transitions, color schemes involving red text and green backgrounds, and clip-art characters not wearing underpants. “We have occupation campaigns in place for all of these offenses,” warns Winsdorf. “We’re going to put an end to Death by PowerPoint, even if it kills us.”

There it is, in one crystalized sentence: Occupy PowerPoint will keep you from killing yourself…or else it will kill you. If only the other Occupy movements could have such a clearly-articulated charter.

About the Author:

Rick Altman has been hired by hundreds of companies, listened to by tens of thousands of professionals, and read by millions of people, all of whom seek better results with their presentation content and delivery. He runs the acclaimed Presentation Summit conference, formerly known as PowerPoint Live, and is  author of the book, Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck & How You Can Make Them Better.  For more information, visit his website www.betterppt.com

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