What if we told you that in the right hands, PowerPoint can be used to produce incredible presentations that communicate your messages with impact?
A bit sceptical? We don’t blame you. Gross misuse of PowerPoint has made its name synonymous with brain-numbing corporate waffle.
But there are a couple of lesser-known steps you can take to pull your slides out of humdrum mediocrity and into the realm of powerful communication. Our PowerPoint design experts have outlined the most essential yet oft-overlooked elements that comprise great presentations. Read about them below and incorporate them into your next slide deck.
1.) Compelling Storytelling
Your presentation content shouldn’t be a boring onslaught of facts and figures. You should instead focus on telling a meaningful story with your slides.
Storytelling’s power lies in its ability to make us care – it enables your audience to make an emotional connection with your content, which is far more powerful than analysis and numbers could ever be. As Bryan Adams from Ph Creative put it on this very blog, ‘as humans, we feel first and we think second’.
Crafting a powerful narrative means breaking down your content and getting to the heart of your message. Pick out a few key ideas you wish to communicate and double down on them, stripping back any peripheral detail.
Establish a clear arc with beginning, middle and end to lend your story structure. Cast problems encountered during your story as the ‘villains’ of your presentation so they can be overcome by the ‘hero’, i.e. your product, approach or idea. This model creates conflict, which helps drive interest and provides clear resolutions to work towards.
2.) Quality, Relevant Imagery
Don’t let terrible visuals ruin your otherwise quality presentation content. There are plenty of resources you can exploit to improve the calibre of your slides without having to hire presentation designers.
Sketch your content and visuals for each slide onto sticky notes before launching any software. The limited space will encourage you to keep each slide succinct and will reduce clutter. Simplicity is key: match economical use of text against strong images so that messages on each slide can be understood at a glance.
If you’re struggling to find quality visuals, check out sites like Pexels, StockSnap and Unsplash – all of which offer beautiful, free stock photos for commercial and personal use (no cheesy airbrushed businesspeople here).
3.) Professional Typefaces
Mundane fonts that your audience are exposed to on a daily basis have no place in professional presentations – we’re looking at you, Calibri and Times New Roman.
There’s a whole world of beautiful typefaces out there to explore, so go beyond the system fonts pre-installed on your machine. Google Fonts is undoubtedly the best place to start, with its extensive library of open source web fonts.
Remember to use just a few fonts in each presentation – or even different weights of the same font. This will help things to look uniform and will ensure your design doesn’t get too chaotic.
Why not take advantage of the versatility of Open Sans, or add some whimsy to slide headings using Lobster.
4.) Visual Hierarchy
Bullet-pointing is the greatest presentation sin you can commit, but there is a solid idea behind it: that related information should be positioned close together. The problem is that bullet points are still just lists with no structure.
This is where visual hierarchy comes in. It’s all about organising your information in a way that guides the eye to tell your audience which elements are most important and how pieces of information relate to each other. Think about which content you want to prioritise on your slides and employ scale, colour, typeface and negative space to achieve this.
If you want to know whether your visual hierarchy is working, try squinting at your screen so that the elements blur into basic shapes. If the bits that stand out are those that you want your audience to see first, you’re on the right track.
5.) Use of Design Principles
We’ve touched on a couple of the core principles of design above, but you should certainly be keeping the following high-level rules in the front of your mind when putting together your PowerPoint presentation designs.
Essentially, elements that are different should look different from one another. Use colour, shape and size to accomplish this.
Reprise design elements to create a visual uniformity that ties your slides together. Employ PowerPoint templates and slide masters to achieve this consistency.
Aligning elements will help bring balance to your design so that it simply ‘looks right’. Go to the ‘View’ tab in the PowerPoint ribbon and select the option to show Gridlines for a simple overlay you can use for accurate alignments.
Place elements that are related close together and apply the proper visual hierarchy. This makes it easier for audiences to correlate the information on your slides.
Buffalo7 is the UK’s leading PowerPoint presentation design agency, based in Manchester and London. Its recent clients include UEFA Champions League, Sony PlayStation, Budweiser Budvar and Unilever.
To find out more about how we can transform your presentation messaging, visit us on Stand 24 at Prolific North Live 2017.