10 Tips for Creating Sharp PowerPoint/Slideshow Slides

Have an upcoming presentation and planning to use a slideshow? Review these 10 expert tips for creating sharp, simple, successful PowerPoint slides. 

After viewing (and many times grading) thousands of slideshows, some even created by so-called professionals, and reviewing many articles on creating successful slideshows, here are my 10 tips for creating successful (professor-approved) slides for your next presentation. 

Tip 1: Read/Review the Assignment Guidelines.
No matter how wonderful your slideshow, no matter how perfect -- if it does not meet the specifications and requirements of the assignment, you will not receive a satisfactory grade. Always start with what is required of you: topic, amount of detail, time limit, etc. Once you are sure of what you need to accomplish, follow the rest of these tips to develop a sharp and successful slideshow. 

Tip 2: Start with a Specific Number of Slides.
How much time have you been allotted for your presentation? Most experts agree that you should spend 1-2 minutes per slide, so if you have a 15-minute presentation, plan on 8-12 slides. (You may need to consolidate the amount of information you can present, given the time limit, so be prepared to edit your work.) 

Tip 3: Develop with a Solid Outline.
Based on a rough idea of how many slides you can create for your presentation, develop an outline for each slide. Remember to include a title slide, an introductory slide, and a conclusion (and/or questions/comments) slide. As you are developing the outline, remember the rule of one topic/idea per slide -- and always break down complex subjects into smaller bites. 

Tip 4: Create or Use a Simple, but Attractive Template.
PowerPoint certainly offers many templates to choose from, but you can also simply create a unique one for yourself. Make sure the template you use matches the tone/style of your presentation -- and always avoid templates that will overshadow your message. 

Tip 5: Limit Colors and Fonts.
Stick to one or two colors, perhaps one for the headline/title and one for the body copy -- but be wary if your template is also colorful, as you do not want a rainbow presentation. In terms of fonts, it's best to use fonts that are clean and easily readable -- such as Tahoma, Arial, Helvetica, Garamond, Calibri, Georgia. 

Tip 6: Use Images/Graphics More Than Words.
Some of the best presenters have few or no words on their slides, but instead use a graphic or image that represents what they want to say. Pictures -- more than words -- can make a powerful visual impact. The key is choosing images that both illustrate your point and can serve as a memory aid for your presentation. 

Tip 7: Keep Words to a Minimum (and Use Larger Font).
The fewer words you have, the greater the impact. With fewer words, you will also not be tempted to try and read the slide -- which is the most common presentation mistake made by people using slides. Some experts say you should have no words smaller than 30 points -- certainly no smaller than 24 points -- but the key is readability and impact. Fewer words, bigger font. 

Tip 8: Use Bullets and Phrases.
When you do have to include technical information and details, do NOT write in full sentences nor full paragraphs. Use bullets and phrases -- and keep them to a minimum. (Consider using only one bulleted phrase per slide.) Again, remember the fewer words the better; save the detailed stuff for a leave-behind or summary sheet handout. 

Tip 9: Go Easy on Those Transitions and Text Fly-ins.
Plain slideshows may seem a bit boring, but much better to be boring than to lose your audience to the overuse of dazzling slide transitions or words and phrases that fly in to the screen. Simplicity always comes across better than bells and whistles. 

Tip 10: Always Proofread Your Slides.
Nothing kills the buzz of a great presentation than one or more typos or misspellings on a slide -- because both you and the audience are now concentrating more on the error(s) than on the actual content that you are trying to express/explain. And do not rely on spellcheck; take the time to carefully edit and proofread your slides multiple times. 

Bonus Presentation Tip: Always have a back-up plan to your slideshow because technical difficulties happen all the time -- whether your file gets corrupted, a computer stops working, the network goes down, or a projector bulb burns out. 

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key academic terms by going to our College Success Glossary

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