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How to Create Beautiful PowerPoint Slides (Even if You're Not a Designer)

3 minute read

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Have you seen Death by PowerPoint? This slideshow is, by now, almost eight years old, but a lot of the principles hold true. Still, it can be challenging and intimidating to create a PowerPoint presentation that is informative, effective, and attractive.

But you don’t need to be a graphic designer to create beautiful PowerPoint slides as long as you keep in mind a few key tips.

Here are our recommendations:

Keep your PowerPoint slides as simple as possible.

We’ve all seen slides that are too overloaded with words. Try to avoid this not-so-great practice by using the bare minimum amount of words on your slide–you don’t even need to use complete sentences.

It’s up to the presenter to convey meaning to his or her audience; the slide should be more of a supportive prop. If your slides have the word-for-word information that the presenter will say, you might as well hand out paper copies or simply send out an email rather than creating a presentation.

Balancing a minimal number of words with strong visuals will keep your audience captivated. Which brings us to our next point…

Learn how to use SmartArt and align shapes.

PowerPoint 2013/2016 has many functions that can help you make your slides look good. One option is SmartArt graphics, which are great for conveying concrete or quantifiable data. Check out this page for more on SmartArt. Remember, you can customize your graphics; change the color or shape style to fit a brand guide or simply make your shapes look more consistent with the style of the rest of your presentation. Here are some tips for customizing Smart Art.

When you add shapes or text boxes to your PowerPoint slides, they can look messy if they’re out of alignment or inconsistent in size. Luckily, PowerPoint actually has built-in controls that snap shapes into just the right spot. You can also manually align your shapes into specific regions of the slide.

Check out the video below for a quick intro to shape alignment:

Get outside help (in the form of templates, fonts, and images).

While PowerPoint has a lot to offer, you shouldn’t be restrained by its stock fonts and templates. And of course, images go far to make a slide more attractive. We recommend looking outside of PowerPoint to see what can take your presentation to the next level.

Fonts for PowerPoint presentations

Standard fonts are fine for presentations, but don’t necessarily stick with the default Calibri. On the other hand, if you use a unique font just to make things more interesting, you run the risk of making your presentation look unprofessional. Varying the size and weight of the same font can add visual interest to a slide without risking the unprofessional look.

If you want a font that doesn’t come installed with Office by default, check out sites like Font Squirrel. There are even many resources online for pairing different fonts together, like this one. Research a little, and you just might find you become a typography fan!

Images for PowerPoint presentations

Creating visual interest with photographs or other images can give your presentation more pizzazz. Try to avoid cliches, though–every image should support the point on the slide, not just be thrown on as an afterthought.

You can use free stock images or buy them at sites like Shutterstock and freeimages.

Templates for PowerPoint presentations

Try a template for a little extra guidance. Many organizations have branded, required templates that you may be required to use, but if you have a little flexibility, you can find a template on your own. Office provides some PowerPoint templates, or you can search for free templates online.

A final note on PowerPoint slide design:

If nothing else, remember to keep it simple. Presenting too much information is probably the most common problem with PowerPoint slides.

There are plenty of resources out there for help with your presentation. For example, check out this gallery of slide decks for inspiration. Don’t be afraid to get outside help!

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