This is Why Your PowerPoint Skills Suck

By Helen Bradley | Posted January 05, 2016
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    This is Why Your PowerPoint Skills Suck

    PowerPoint often gets a bad rap as the root cause of boring and unattractive presentations. But let's face facts: the fault lies with the designer—not with PowerPoint. If you're new to PowerPoint—and even if you're not—you might be tempted to add a bunch of different elements in the vain hope that your presentation will look good.

    Unfortunately, that design strategy simply tells the audience that you suck at PowerPoint. So, in the interest of helping you make impressive PowerPoint presentations, we list five classically bad PowerPoint habits—and how to break them.

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    How to Use PowerPoint: Avoid Inconsistent Slides

    Variety is not always the spice of life. If every slide in your presentation looks different, you'll achieve visual variety, but you'll also overwhelm your audience and risk confusing your message. Presentations look best when all the slides share a single, cohesive look. That's why PowerPoint ships with predesigned themes.

    Smart PowerPoint designers choose one theme and use it for the entire presentation. PowerPoint offers lots of themes in a variety of colors; pick a design you like in a color that matches your business colors.

    To find Themes: click the Design tab, browse the Themes, and then click the one you want for your presentation. To change the color of the presentation, choose a color scheme from the Variants list. If you don't like those options, open the Variants dropdown, choose Colors, and browse to find an alternate color scheme.

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    How to Use PowerPoint: Avoid Animation Overload

    If your PowerPoint presentations look like a crazed circus with things spinning around and flying through the air, then you suck at PowerPoint. It's time to rethink your PowerPoint skills. Overusing animation truly annoys an audience, and it detracts from your message. Remember, you're making a presentation because you want to inform your audience. Do that with your content—not with nausea-inducing special effects.

    When you create a PowerPoint presentation, focus on the message and don't use animation unless it supports the message. That goes for transitions and sound effects, too. Avoid sound effects entirely, and if you must use transitions then the best ones are the Cut and Fade.

    You can apply these by choosing Transitions > Fade and set the Effect Options to Through Black or simply choose Cut.

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    How to Use Powerpoint Effectively: Go Easy on the Text

    If you have to shrink the font size so your text fits on a slide, then you've said too much. Impressive PowerPoint presentations have just enough text to make the point. Why? It looks good on the slide, and it's easier for audiences to read. Don't write a paragraph where a bullet point will do.

    PowerPoint is not a word processor. Smart designers use PowerPoint effectively; they remove excess words, and they use bullet points that start with a verb or an action word. This strategy significantly reduces the amount of text on the slides.

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    How to Use PowerPoint: Minimal Fonts

    Just because you liked Men in Black or Harry Potter doesn't mean you should use those movie fonts in your PowerPoint presentation. Rookie PowerPoint users make poor font choices, they use too many fonts, and they use them badly. Examples of bad font judgment include using script fonts in all caps and mismatching the personality of the font with the message of the presentation. These choices do not produce impressive PowerPoint presentations. They scream: you suck at PowerPoint.

    Smart PowerPoint designers know to use one font—or two at most—on a slide. They use fonts that contrast with each other as these work best together and they match the font's personality with the message of the presentation. Stick to the fonts that come with the theme you chose, or use a preset font combination by choosing the Design tab, click the Variants dropdown list, and choose Fonts to browse the suggested combinations.

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    How to Use PowerPoint: Contrast and Stock Photos

    There is such a thing as good contrast and bad contrast, and rookie PowerPoint users typically gravitate to the latter. For example, they often choose combinations of text and background colors that make the text hard to read. Or they place differently styled graphics in close proximity to each other, which leaves the slides looking busy and untidy.

    Understand that some combinations—like red and green—are difficult to read, and they can cause problems for people with color blindness. Pay special attention to font choices when using white text on a black background; this prevents the text from disappearing into the background.

    PowerPoint presentations look neater and more cohesive when you use a single illustration style throughout, and stock image sites are a good source of images for PowerPoint presentations.

    PowerPoint rookies should embrace the KISS principle. By keeping your design simple, using a limited number of fonts, and a single graphic style, you will produce PowerPoint presentations that are both impressive and effective. And no one will ever say you suck at PowerPoint again.

    Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her website, HelenBradley.com

Admit it. You suck at PowerPoint. These five tips show you how to use PowerPoint to make a slide show that won't embarrass you.

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