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Presentation Skills: Powerpoint: Powerpoint

Basic Design Principles

Powerpoint helps us to think of each projected page as a "slide" in a slideshow. But just as someone else’s home movies can be thoroughly uninteresting if they’re grainy, poor in quality, and irrelevant, Powerpoint slides that are too flashy, cluttered, meaningless, or poorly designed can quickly turn a darkened room full of smart people into a mere gathering of snoozers. As you design your slides, consider these factors:

  • Even though Powerpoint helps you design your slides, don’t assume that someone else’s template will always match your needs.
  • Take charge of slide design by considering first the most efficient way to transmit the necessary information.
  • Keep slides as simple and uncluttered as possible, and if the information must be complex, prioritize it for your audience as you present it (e.g., if presenting a ten-column table, direct your audience to the most significant columns).
  • Offer only one major point per illustration.
  • If you need to focus on more than one point, re-present the illustration in another form on a separate slide with the different point emphasized.
  • Give most slides titles, with a font size of at least 36 points, and body text with a font size of at least 24 points.
  • If you need to cite a source of information, include the citation in a smaller font size at the bottom of your slide.
    How to:
Rule of 8s.
  • Apply the "rule of 8s": include no more than 8 words per line and 8 lines per slide.
  • When using bulleted lists in slides, present each bulleted line in parallel fashion—i.e., if the first line is a fragment, the others should be as well; if the first line opens with a verb, so should the others.
    How to:
  • Design slides so that their longest dimension is horizontal rather than vertical.
  • Use both uppercase and lowercase letters and orient pictures left to right.
  • Avoid the overuse of animations and transitions, especially audio-based transitions, which can be distracting and downright silly.

Color. Images.


Content was adapted from Chapter 7. Presenting Yourself in Person and Online:Oral Presentation and Powerpoint in Effective Technical Writing in the Information Age by Joe Schall, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University. This content is available through Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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