Whether you use PowerPoint or Google Slides, slideshows are a visual medium that can convey and empower the message you deliver to an audience. At the same time, it can keep your audience engaged during your presentation, making it stand out as something they will definitely remember.
However, if designed and used poorly, the slides you show your audience can actually get in the way of your presentation. This can be the result of a multitude of factors, ranging anywhere from too much text on the slides to not having enough visuals for data.
Whether you’re presenting to your colleagues or for a meeting with your higher-ups, try these ten tips for a slideshow that will make your presentation engaging and effective in delivering your message.
1. Keep Text on Slides Short and Sweet
One of the most common mistakes that people make when designing a slideshow is putting too much text on their slides. If your audience is having to sit and read through all of that text, they won’t be listening to whatever you’re saying.
If you want to have deliver written information with your slides, you have to do it in a way that supports your presentation – it’s a supplement to what you’re saying, not a substitute. Stay away from writing paragraphs and stick to using bullet points to stay concise. Also, shorten each point so the audience can quickly read it and understand the point you’re trying to make.
Again, your slides are a supplement to your presentation, so don’t overload your audience with information by filling your slides with text. Otherwise, you won’t be the main focus of your own presentation.
2. Pick an Appropriate Font
Some people like to be creative when it comes to their slideshows, so they end up doing things like picking a more artsy font for their slides. Don’t do this. Seriously, don’t do it.
It’s very easy to pick a font that looks fancy but ends up being impossible for your audience to read during your presentation. As a rule of thumb, stick to fonts that you would use to write a paper for a class (or just any simple/classic font). Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica – these are all great examples of fonts to use, as they are easy to read and available on any computer software you use.
Whenever you’re using text for your slides, you need to make sure you use it right. Otherwise, your audience is going to have a lot of trouble taking in whatever you have written down.
3. Watch the Size of Your Text
Another crucial aspect when it comes to using text is making you sure you use an appropriate size. This can be tricky and it will take a bit of time to figure out as you work through your slides. For one, you obviously want to make sure your audience can read the text, especially if some are sitting far away from the screen you’re using.
On the other hand, however, you don’t want to make your text too big either. Otherwise, you’ll end up taking too much space, which will both look awkward and get in the way of any visuals you wanted to add.
You’ll need to experiment with the sizes for your headers and body depending on what software you’re using. Though, as a general rule, you should never go below 20pt for headers or 18pt for the text in the body.
In case you were wondering, font size is measured in “points”, and one point is equivalent to 1/72 of an inch. This is the standard measurement unit for software like PowerPoint or online tools like Google Slides.
4. Balancing Your Photos and Text
If you plan on using photos and text together on a slide, you need to make sure that there is a clear visual contrast between the two. This means making sure that the text is readable and that the photo is not being covered.
If you’re struggling to fit them together, try separating your text from your photo with a border or use shadows if the photo has brighter colors. You could also experiment with the colors of the text or fill the text box to make the text pop out. In the case of the latter, lower the opacity so the box blends in with the background while still being visible.
5. Use Fitting and Professional Photos that Help Your Point
Photos can help make your slideshow more engaging, and when they are used with text they can help support the points being made. However, which photos are the right ones to use for your presentation? This depends on the contents of your slides and the tone you are going for.
Some people just go for the first results on Google Images, which can vary from realistic images to clip art. If your presentation is more formal or discussing important matters, you should use professional, high-quality pictures. Stay away from illustrations or pictures with poor quality, as they’ll be distracting and give a bad impression of your presentation to your audience.
Furthermore, make sure that the photos you use are actually relevant to what is being discussed on the slide. A lot of people might think this is common sense, but it is an important note to keep in mind – keep your visuals focused for your presentation.
6. Use Visual Aids for Your Data
Some of the presentations you make might involve a lot statistics and data, and it can be a bit tricky to convey this information if you only use text. Instead, use graphs – pie graphs, bar graphs, whatever you need for the data you have – so you can keep the attention of your audience while informing them.
Of course, you should keep in mind that the best graph to use varies on the kind of data you have. For example, if you want to make a comparison using percentages, you could use a pie graph (or a “donut-graph” if you’re using PowerPoint and want to try something different).
Using visuals for your data will much more clearly convey what you mean to your audience, and they will pick up quicker on the information you present this way. At the same time, they are more appealing visually to look at and will keep them more engaged than lines of text describing the same information.
7. Keep Tables Basic and Easy to Read
If you ever plan on using tables for your presentation, you need to make them as simple and clear to read as possible (notice a trend here?). For one, don’t take all of the information (numbers, etc.) you have and push it into one table – if you need to make separate tables on a few slides, then do it. It will look much better and your audience will have less trouble reading it.
You should also refrain from adding any borders, colors, and outlines that aren’t needed for your table or don’t help make the data easier to process. The tables you make should be basic, and the less you add to them, the better.
8. Use Simple Transitions
When designing your slides, you have the option to use transitions, which are short animations that happen when going from one slide to the next. I normally don’t use them myself, but you can give them a try if you want your presentation to be a bit more lively.
Though, when I say “lively”, I mean it very lightly. Most slideshow software, especially PowerPoint, offer many transitions that are more distracting than they are helpful. If you want to your presentation to look professional, stick to a “fade” transition or something else simple.
Again, it is up to you whether you want to use them. Personally, the presentations I’ve made don’t really need them and I don’t see them used that much by others. Though, there isn’t anything wrong with using them if you keep it simple.
9. Use Color, but Don’t Go Overboard
Adding a little color to your slides can really help breathe some life into them. However, it’s best to use colors that fit the audience you present to as well as the theme or message of the presentation. For example, you wouldn’t want to use bright and vibrant colors for a business meeting with your boss.
Overall, think about who the presentation is for and pick colors that reflect that, as well as the reason why you’re presenting in the first place. This is especially important for formal occasions, and will require more time to consider in those situations.
When designing a slideshow for a presentation, there are many factors to consider. The text, the colors, the visuals you use – all of it affects the impression you give to your audience and how well you convey the message you want to deliver. By actively working with these components in mind and tailoring your slides accordingly, you can make a powerful and engaging presentation that people will be sure to remember.