Trick Out My PowerPoint: Episode 2

Every second of the day, PowerPoint is used in approximately 350 presentations around the world. To put that into perspective, there are more PowerPoint presentations born every second than babies.

If you’re planning to use PowerPoint (along with 30,240,000 other people every day), it’ll be important that your slides can stand out and be memorable.

Phase(Two)Learning’s Michelle Baker and I are here to help! In this second edition of our Trick Out My PowerPoint series, we’ve taken a look at an actual slide from a conference I recently attended and put our own spin on the design of the slide.

Episode 2 (Original)

While the presentation itself featured good, relevant information, here’s a sample of how Michelle and I would have “tricked out” this slide deck for maximum impact on the audience.

Trick-out Artist #1: Brian Washburn

All the information is there on this slide, and I would have broken up the bullet points into four separate slides (when you list all your bullet points on one screen, your audience will be too busy reading the text on your slide to pay attention to what you have to say… the brain can’t read and try to listen at the same time).


To me, the word “goal” lends itself very easily to a sports metaphor. One way to trick out this slide deck, at least this particular section revolving around goals, would be to turn the slide into a stadium scoreboard, complete with jumbotron screen for the image.

Episode 2 (V1)

Option 2: This Is Only Made Possible With Your Support

The word “goal” also reminds me of the old “fundraising thermometer” whereby reaching one goal is a small victory along the way, but the ultimate destination is to reach every single goal (filling up the entire thermometer).

Episode 2 (V2)

Option 3: Work Within The Template

Finally, there are times when someone at a higher pay grade insists that a slide template must be used. There are so many reasons I don’t like slide templates, but the biggest one is because the slide template eats up valuable slide real estate. Nonetheless, if a slide template is required, it doesn’t prevent the visual imagery of your PowerPoint slides from being powerful. I might put together a series of slides that looks like this…

Episode 2 (V3-1)

Followed by a series of slides with text that is crystal clear. During the delivery, I’d make the point that without all four of these goals being achieved, millions of people would remain corneal blind and those blurry slides represent all they would be able to see.

Episode 2 (V3-2)

Trick-out Artist #2: Michelle Baker

Well, I took the challenge in another direction. Ordinarily, my gut reaction would have been to take the same approach as Brian, to divide the content among multiple slides. But as I looked at the slide, I couldn’t help but wonder if I could actually communicate the point of the slide on one individual slide, without looking cluttered or forced.

I transformed this slide three ways:

Option 1: Simple and Straightforward

Episode 2 (vA)

On this slide, I specifically called out the two goals of eye banks, using a simple “bullseye” graphic for participants to identify these goals with the importance of achieving the goal. Using a callout box in a contrasting color, I added the additional talking points. The box and color breaks up the text, and allows the participant to focus on “zones” in the slide, rather than looking at many text rows. You could also utilize PowerPoint’s animation/transition features to have the text box float in after discussing the two goals, to make the slide appear even cleaner.

Option 2: Let SmartArt Do the Work

Episode 2 (vB)

When used properly, SmartArt can be a very effective way to visually convey information on a slide without using too much text. It’s a wonderful, easy-to-use feature for non-graphic designers (like myself!) to add to their PowerPoint design arsenal. For this slide, I used two converging arrows. This particular graphic clearly shows the relationship between the two goals of eye banks, and why they are so important to work in conjunction with one another. The ribbon-tied finger graphic at the bottom adds a bit of personality to the reminder of why this is important, particularly for new eye banks.

Option 3: A strong graphic can make all the difference

Episode 2 (vC)

Leaning on the participants’ perceived passion around healthy eyes, I used a strong graphic of a stunning blue eye as the focal point of this slide. By adjusting the image size, the eye appears to fade directly into the blank, white canvas of the slide, which provides an ideal space to add my text – simply stated and clean. Again, using subtle animation/transition functionality, I would add the “What does this mean?” subtext after discussing the two primary goals.

On all three slides, I made sure to call out the source information, but notice that I used a subtle gray color for the font in a smaller size – it is visible, but does not compete with the primary message the slide coveys.

Another point of consistency is the use of animation/transition functionality – subtle is key; avoid crazy twirls, spins and checkerboard effects! A simple float or fade will suffice, and use the same effect, speed and direction throughout your entire slide deck for a polished, professional look.

So, there you have it. Between each of our approaches you see 6 very different, tricked-out approaches for the same PowerPoint slide. Give one of these styles a try the next time you’re faced with a text-laden slide full of content!

What say you?

How would you trick out this slide? What is your preferred approach? Share your creative ideas in the comments below!

Need some help Tricking Out Your PowerPoint?

Let Michelle or me give it a shot! Send us a slide, and we might just feature it in an upcoming blog post on Train Like a Champion and Phase(Two)Learning!

5 Sources for Free Fonts

Whether you realize it or not, the font you use actually says a lot about you.

Using Calibri in a handout or a PowerPoint presentation says:


Using Comic Sans says:


Choosing the right font can help set the tone for your communication and further capture your audience’s imagination when it comes to your topic. Take a look at the following example, which one evokes more of an emotion?



If you’re looking to change up your fonts and you’re not quite satisfied with the fonts that are pre-loaded on your computer, here are 5 sources that are loaded with free fonts for you to install for your next project.

  1. 1001 Free Fonts. This is the first one that will come up in a Google search. If you can’t find the font you’re looking for here, I’d be surprised, but just in case here are some other places to dig…
  2. FontSquirrel. I first found out about this site from Phase(Two)Learning’s Michelle Baker. If you’re into curly fonts, I highly recommend Pacifico.
  3. 11 Stunning (and free) Fonts You Should Download Right Now. HuffPo considers typography and font design news! This is a short, fun article with links to 11 cool fonts. Let me know if you figure out something to do with Typode.
  4. California Fonts. This site boasts 20,000 free fonts to download. The holiday selection caught my eye. Definitely some fun fonts on this site.
  5. Another free font site featuring fonts by category and an easy search function to find just what you’re looking for. The graffiti fonts make me wonder if it’s possible to go out and virtually tag a bunch of boring PowerPoint presentations. Hmmm, the possibilities…

A word of caution: I’ve found myself spending way too much time browsing some of these font sites, loading up my computer with lots of fonts. That naturally leads to the desire to put way too many fonts into some of my work products. So, have fun with these fonts… but in moderation.

Have a favorite font? I’d love to hear why you love that font in the comments section below.

Want to let your entire social network know about all these cool fonts? Tweet this post. Or Share it. Or Press It. Or Pin it. Or Or even go the old fashioned route and email it. But be sure to share it!

Improving Your PowerPoint Slide Design

When your PowerPoint slides have a lot of text, your audience will naturally want to read everything you’ve written. When your audience reads everything you’ve written, they can’t pay attention to what you might be saying. Your brain can’t actually read words and listen to someone talk at the same time (but don’t take my word for it, John Medina writes all about what the brain can and cannot do in his easy-to-digest book Brain Rules).

Put another way, it will be very challenging for your audience to be able to take in the amazing points you may want to make if your slide looks like this:

PowerPoint Slide Design Example 1

Keep in mind that your slides are not your presentation. I have been to a lot of conferences, and I’ve never heard anyone say: “I think I’ll go to Rebecca’s presentation because I bet her slides are going to knock our socks off!” Indeed, slides are more like your back-up singers while you (the presenter) are actually the rock star. And just like poor back-up singers can be incredibly annoying and distracting, poor slides (too much text, distracting and/or random clip art, obnoxious transitions, etc.) can really distract from your presentation.

When I had to prepare a presentation on worldwide corneal blindness, I took the above slide and converted it to the following:

PowerPoint Slide Design Example (2)

What Changed?

  • I replaced the standard PowerPoint template with a plain black background
  • I changed from standard font to Arial Narrow
  • I removed all content except for what I wanted the audience to focus on

As the imposing figure of 10,000,000 shines down on the audience, I will talk with the audience about what this number means and steps we can take to dramatically reduce the number of corneal blind in the world. I’ll share strategies and best practices, but I don’t want anyone in the audience to forget about the magnitude of the problem.

This slide has been transformed from a content-laden reference page to a powerful presentation aid that will set the mood for the point I want to make.

Should there be a hard and fast rule about how many words you should place on any given slide? No. Sometimes you need to put a bunch of words on a slide. But be judicious in your use of text… when your audience is reading your slides, they’re not paying attention to you.

Want to learn more about slide design? You may be interested in these articles:

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow”!  And now you can find sporadic, 140-character messages from me on Twitter @flipchartguy.

Creating An Amazing PowerPoint Presentation In Two Steps

Lately, I’ve been obsessed by creating an amazing visual experience in addition to a well-delivered presentation.  As I perused Slideshare this weekend, I stopped at Bruce Kasanoff’s slide deck on how to nail the first 60 seconds of your presentation.


Here are two simple things that make this a great presentation:

  1. Eschews standard templates for powerful images. Not a single slide uses a template nor does he plaster his company’s logo all over these slides. Almost every slide has a full-slide image related to the content on the slide. Except for slide #16 – he chose to use only text in order to get his point across.

Implications for the novice graphic designer: When you open PowerPoint, don’t bother with the standard templates. Use an image that fits the context of your slide as your background template.

  1. Make text readable. On slides 5, 12 and 15, he had to add a text box with a background around his text in order to be able to read the words.

Implications for the novice graphic designer: Once you have chosen the background images that fit the context of your slides, you may have to do a little extra work to make sure your text is legible and does not blend in to the background of the slide.  Sometimes you can simply vary the color of your text (using a yellow font instead of a black font on a slide with a dark background will often work).  But sometimes you won’t be able to find a color that will stand out from your background and you’ll need to fill in the color of the text box shape behind your text (examples of this are on slides 5 and 12, while on slide 15 he just used a black rectangle across the width of the slide to provide a contrasting background for his font).

If you’re looking for additional examples of great PowerPoint presentations, you may find these prior blog posts to be helpful:

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow”!  And now you can find sporadic, 140-character messages from me on Twitter @flipchartguy.

Fashionable AND Functional: Good Graphic Design is Just as Important as Good Facilitation

Do your training materials, learning guides and handouts have the same effect on people as a) a monotone lecture or b) a vibrant, engaging, energetic presentation?  The truth is: graphic design is as integral to training delivery as the facilitator. But what kind of effort and resources go into good graphic design?

A few months back, I put this question to Joanne Lauterjung-Kelly, a graphic designer with almost 30 years of experience.  Below, I’ve printed, with her permission, Joanne’s very eloquent case for trainers to be intentional about investing whatever is necessary (time, effort and/or money) into good graphic design.

“I don’t see it as a choice of design vs. function, but rather how design contributes to function, and how function informs design.’

Effective Training Requires Effective Delivery

“In the nearly 30 years that I’ve been a graphic designer I’ve noticed a common trend. Organizations will spend a lot of time, money and energy on developing and writing training manuals. But when it comes time to putting those manuals into a useable format, there’s rarely money left over for graphic design. Often there’s an assumption that design is a ‘frivolous’ expense, and that just making something pretty doesn’t add value to its delivery. I beg to differ.’

The 80/20 Rule

“Good graphic design is about putting information in a visual format so that it’s more easily, and quickly, comprehended. Much of what we comprehend is how something is presented more than the actual words used that are used. The words themselves only tell part of the story. The rest of the story is giving the user a visual hierarchy of information, and guiding them through a process so that not only are trainers delivering the training more effectively, those being trained are understanding and retaining more information. And isn’t the goal of any good training lasting retention and the ability to recall all that data that people worked so hard to compile?’

Guiding Learners through the Maze

“Graphic design provides ways of effectively organizing information through the use of color, choice of typefaces, type size, use of charts or graphics, and yes, even strategic use of white space. People are more likely to digest dense information when they’re fed smaller chunks of it at a time. A full page of text is less likely to be comprehended than if it were broken down and laid out in multiple pages with graphic elements guiding them.’

“Effective and efficient delivery of any training program requires attention to multiple styles of learning, and presenting information that will be remembered long after the training session is over.’

“A good designer knows that the first priority is to be of service to effective learning. It’s not about my personal taste, or my client’s taste. It’s about who’s going to be using these materials, and what visual language do they need?’

“Good graphic design doesn’t have limitations. Bad design does. A good (i.e., experienced) designer is a team player with the creators of the curriculum, the organization creating it, the trainers using it, and the students learning from it. A good designer knows to use only 2 font families at once, colors that convey the right emotional context, a layout that’s accessible and easy to read, and when to add photos, illustrations, charts or graphs.’

“The human brain needs white space. We can effectively digest only so much information in one shot. You need to break information down into smaller chunks so that you can 1) prioritize what people are learning first, and 2) not bombard them with too much stimulus at once.”

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, please follow this blog!