Whether you're presenting a hot new startup idea or breaking down your company's recent sales numbers, chances are that Microsoft PowerPoint is your presentation software tool of choice. This familiar slideshow creation tool is simple to use but is also quite deep in terms of functionality and innovation. But how do you quickly create a great slide deck when a deadline's looming just around the corner? We asked two experts to share some of their best-kept secrets and tips.
1. Consider Free Stock Art and Template Options
The biggest problem with creating Microsoft PowerPoint slide decks is that it is common for people to use the same default themes and styles, which means a lot of presentations look nearly identical in a sort of bland and generic way.
"Consider using free or affordable stock photography to freshen up your presentation, said Joanna Liu, Senior Presentation Consultant for Stinson Design, an agency that specializes in creating professional presentations. Liu said a brief web search on royalty-free photography websites can yield great images that can help you create more impactful presentations.
"You don't have to pay a lot of money for a good stock photo, but it can make a great impact and is preferable over commonly-used images that have become cliché," said Liu.
2. Get Inspiration From Attractive Slideshows
Creating slideshows in PowerPoint requires a mix of creativity, technical proficiency, and artistic flair. That said, if there are outstanding slide decks that you've seen and that have left a lasting impression on you, then use those as a template for your own presentation. But don't forget to add your own elements for nuance and personality.
Clear, impactful, and attractive slideshows tend to leave a lasting impact so emulating a proven design that works beats having to start from scratch.
"You can be inspired by colors, layouts, and transitions used on other slideshows to successfully develop your own deck," Liu pointed out.
3. Play With Different Fonts
The correct font can make or break a presentation as well as set the tone of the information the slideshow conveys.
"Fonts are one way to add personality to a slideshow," Liu said. "You can download free fonts, and play with their color, formatting, size, and spacing for the desired impact."
Designers can do a lot with one font and suggest that you limit the number of fonts used in a slideshow to no more than two. "Just make sure that, if you use non-system fonts, meaning fonts that aren't native to your PC, [make sure you] save your PowerPoint presentation as a PDF," said Kristy Lam, a marketing strategist for Stinson Design.
Saving as a PDF file ensures that the printed slides can be viewed as intended even on PCs and devices that may not have the fonts you used.
4. Keep Things Simple
"People don't need to go all out or over the top when they build presentations. Simplicity is a better choice," Liu says. Some tips to keep things simple include recycling the slide's layout to make it fit the different slides.
"It doesn't need to be super complicated," said Liu. "Use the same layout but add different photos, or add some colors or icons to create a variance."
It is also important not to fill up slides with too much information. The average deck is between 20 to 25 slides, but in some instances, that's restrictive. The key is creating a balance, according to Liu.
"Stick to one point or one key message per slide," said Liu, "but if you need to break up text over multiple slides, then go ahead and do it, even if it takes you over 25 slides."
5. Use Slides as Guides
"The focus in the presentation should be on the presenter and not the slides," Liu said, adding that being cognizant of your audience and how the delivery of the presentation is going will be more critical to your success than a well-designed Microsoft PowerPoint slide deck.
Slides should serve as guides for presenters to tell their story and add color to their presentation. "The audience will likely be reading the slides, as well as taking down notes, so there's no need to read the slides to them point by point. Add value by elaborating on the slides," she added. "You're telling a story, the slides are your guide."
6. Improve Your Skills With Online Courses
While Microsoft has continuously improved PowerPoint to be user-friendly and intuitive, getting tips and training from experts can go a long way to creating unique and engaging slide decks in less time.
Online course portal Udemy offers some notable PowerPoint courses worth looking at. There's Beginner to Pro in PowerPoint: Complete PowerPoint Training, which promises techniques to help build slides two to three times faster, and will help users fast-track 80 percent of everything they can do in PowerPoint.
Advanced PowerPoint users can take their expertise to the next level with the PowerPoint 2016 2019 - Master PowerPoint presentation and Advanced PowerPoint Training, which are intermediate-to-expert-level training courses.