Three Simple PowerPoint Tips To Improve Your Slide Design

“Pardon me, is that Prezi you’re using?”

“No.  Actually it’s PowerPoint.”

This was an actual conversation I had with a participant during a recent training session.  Prezi has carried the label of “the next big thing in visual aids” for some time now.  I’ve tried to learn it a few times, but it tends to make me dizzy.  So I’ve stopped playing around with it.

I’m constantly on the lookout to find a better way to present visual information.  I’ve highlighted some amazing Slideshare presentations in previous posts.  Though I’ve pointed people in the direction of some amazing examples, I still can’t design amazing and engaging slides like some of those examples which have been produced by people with a graphic design background.  But, I’ve found that a few simple tweeks to the way I’ve designed my slides can make my PowerPoint presentations a lot more interesting.

  1. Slide Transitions

I first noticed the difference that this element can play when I attended a session delivered by the chief operating officer of my organization.  Instead of clicking the next button and having a new slide appear, he clicked the next button and one slide gave way to the next similar to the way a film strip would advance.  It was a small touch, but it was unexpected.  It was different.  I liked it so much I started playing with the slide transitions element on a few recent presentations, and that’s what led one participant to ask if I was using Prezi.  Be careful though, don’t overdo it on the slide transitions.

  1. Drop Clip Art, Use Simple Shapes

I have a limited budget and can’t spend much on artwork.  Which means that often I can’t find free clipart images that express exactly what I want to express.  Recently I’ve found that I can drop the idea of an image all together and use a simple design by inserting a few text boxes, a few shapes and lots of white space.

Look ma, no clip art!

Look ma, no clip art!

  1. Animate The Screen

This final tip uses a little more advanced PowerPoint design skill; it’s a trick I learned as I was trying to design a Family Feud-style board using PowerPoint for an activity (read more about it here: Survey Says! Creating Training Games Like Family Feud with PowerPoint).  Beyond a game of Family Feud, this design element allows a PowerPoint presentation to be much more dynamic.  Instead of simply animating a bullet-pointed list wherein each click of the mouse leads to a pre-determined order in the way things appear on the screen, using this design element allows a presenter to reveal concepts on the screen in the order that your learners mention them.

You can simply animate bullet points in a static list...

You can simply animate bullet points in a static list…

...or you can set custom animations so answers are revealed as the audience calls them out.

…or you can set dynamic, custom animations so answers are revealed as the audience calls them out.

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11 thoughts on “Three Simple PowerPoint Tips To Improve Your Slide Design

    • Thanks Nicole!

      Seems like there’s a lot of great examples of completely amazing PPT decks put together by graphic design folks. And it seems like the overhwelming majority of people who use PPT are folks who were simply asked to give a presentation and have little instructional design or graphic design background. But there are just so many little things people can do to make their presentations sooooooooo much more interesting to look at.

      • I wholeheartedly agree!!

        Have you ever checked out the amazing Powerpoint decks shared on ? Tons of visual inspiration! And from what I can see, the best presentations have very little text on them, mostly just images and key points. This is because it should only act as an aid, while the presenter does the talking!!

      • Thanks – I’d never been to I love sites like that – they are like a beacon of hope, showing what’s *possible*!

        I always equate PPT with back-up singers at a concert – they certainly augment the rockstar performer, but nobody comes to see the back-up singers, the concert would be fine without them and the rockstar certainly doesn’t rely on them to deliver a kick-butt performance.

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