My colleague Daniel Blank recently gave some very useful tips on creating engaging PowerPoint presentations. As he rightfully pointed out, the visual element of a presentation is key to capture and keep your audience’s attention. These four easy – but vital – steps will take your presentations to the next visual level.
Step 1: be consistent
It’s important to have consistency throughout your presentation. If recurring elements are in a different position on every slide, it creates messy slides.
Tips for creating a consistent and tidy presentation:
- Make sure recurring elements (e.g. headers or logos) are always in the same position on your slide, in the same size.
- Choose a certain color palette and use different shades of those colors. This creates unity in your slides.
- Adapt the photos used to your color palette. There are actually a lot of photo editing options in PowerPoint. If you select a photo, click on the ‘Format picture’ option. You can then select ‘corrections’, ‘recolor’ and ‘filters’ you can edit photos to fit the style of your presentation.
Step 2: less is more
As Daniel pointed out, less is more in terms of text and bullets on your slides. You can make your slides more impactful using only one word or sentence per slide.
Photos are a great way to support your story without the audience getting distracted. You can find royalty-free pictures easily on the Internet. A few good sites are:
- Creative Commons
- Free images
- Death to the stock photo
- Little visuals
Step 3: photo editing
If you have good photos to use in your presentation, there are a lot of options in PowerPoint to edit those photos. Here are a few of the most convenient tools in the ‘Format picture’ menu:
Cropping a picture comes in useful if the image is a lot larger than your slide or if you only want to show a small part of an image. Here’s a basic guide for cropping images:
- Select the image and click on ‘Format picture’ and select the ‘Crop’ option.
- You’ll then see black lines appear around the edge of the picture. Place your cursor on one of those lines and drag the line.
- You can see a part of the photo is being cut off. When you’re satisfied with your selection, click again on ‘crop’.
- Your photo is now cropped, but PowerPoint ‘remembers’ the parts of the picture that are not visible. That way, you can always edit your cropped area.
When you don’t need to adjust the cropped region of your photo anymore, you can use the ‘Compress’ option in the ‘Format picture’ menu. This option also makes sure the size of your PowerPoint stays as small as possible – thus avoiding a heavy file size. When you click on the ‘Compress’ button you get a small menu with a few options. You can reduce the resolution of your images, to minimize the size of your presentation. You can also choose to ‘Remove cropped picture regions’. When this option is selected, PowerPoint doesn’t remember the whole photo – only the cropped part. Make sure you only use this option if you’re satisfied with the cropped parts of the photos. Finally, you can choose if the ‘Remove cropped picture regions’ needs to apply to all photos in the presentation or just the selected image.
Masking to a shape
It can be useful to crop an image to a certain shape. This is also possible in PowerPoint, but it does take a little getting used to.
- In the ‘Format picture’ menu, select the arrow next to ‘Crop’.
- Choose ‘Mask to shape’ and choose a shape (e.g. ‘Basic shapes’ > ‘Oval’).
- The oval is formed to always adapt to the width of the image. Because of this, you usually get an egg-like shape.
- If you want a perfect round shape, you can click on ‘Crop’ and drag the black lines to the point that the picture’s width and height are the same.
- You can also drag the picture around to change the part that is being cropped.
- Click again on ‘Crop’ when you are satisfied.
Step 4: every slide is an advertisement
In terms of layout, people tend to think of PowerPoint slides in terms of bullets. Instead, you could think of every slide as an advertisement. The following tips are useful to enhance the layout of your slides:
Guides are really useful tools to align items on your slide. You can find those at ‘View’ > ‘Guides’ > ‘Static guides’. It is also convenient to turn on the ‘Ruler’. This can be done through ‘View’ > ‘Ruler’. PowerPoint automatically places two guides on your slide – a horizontal one and a vertical one. You can move them by dragging them across the slide. When you want to add guides, you put your cursor on a guide, keep ‘alt’ pressed on your keyboard and drag. You can see an extra guide appear.
Tip: keeping ‘alt’ pressed and dragging also gives you an exact copy of all items used on your slide, like shapes, photos and text.
When selecting and dragging objects across your slide, PowerPoint doesn’t always put them in exactly the right place. If you want to absolutely control the exact position, you can best do this with numbers (centimeters). Select an object, right click and choose ‘Format shape/picture’ > ‘Position’. Here you can enter numbers as the location for that object.
Another option to align objects is ‘Arrange’. You can find this option as a ‘Home’ menu item. Under ‘Arrange’ there are some useful options. For example:
- With ‘Reorder’ you can move objects on top or beneath each other.
- With ‘Rotate’ and ‘Flip’ you can rotate or mirror the objects.
- The option I use the most is ‘Align’. Here you can align objects.
- Through ‘Distribute Horizontally/Vertically’ you can even out the space between objects.
With these options, your slide will look a lot sleeker.
You’re now officially a PowerPoint design master! Further to the tips described above, there are a lot more features to discover in the program we all have a love-hate relationship with. It’s just a matter of experimenting and practicing and maybe you’ll one day become a true PowerPoint pro!