Top Ten Tips how to design PowerPoint Slides

By: Cogent Design Group  09-12-2011

1. PowerPoint is only a support tool – you are the star of the show
PowerPoint is an effective tool in supporting your presentation but it is not the presentation in its self, you are the person that your audience came to see. Therefore construct the presentation with yourself as its focal point. Use your slides to support your points and keep them simple and clean. Cluttered slides and flashy effects will distract your audience from you and your message. 

2. Beware of too many bullet points – they don’t work

It has been shown in a number of studies that the extensive use of bullet points and text is not effective in a presentation and that images and diagrams used to support the presenter's spoken points are absorbed more readily.  However bullet points are sometimes unavoidable and so they should be used sparingly to highlight the key points of your message.

3. Put the detailed text in your handouts

Remember that you have your presentation notes/handouts to reiterate the detailed points of your presentation. Your handouts should not be a direct printout of your slides nor a copy of your script, but a combination of the two in which you can give a detailed account of your presentation as well give full versions of any lengthy quotes or sources you may have used.

4. Don’t get tricky with slide transition and effects

Be subtle and sparing with your use of animations and transitions. A clean left to right wipe for your bullet points and a brisk fade for slide transitions can make a slideshow run more smoothly. But "flying" or slow animations can become tedious for your audience and hinder the pacing of your presentation. 

5. Don’t use clip art – just don’t OK! 6 People remember photographs, illustrations, diagrams and graphs

High quality photographs and illustrations will convey meaning and bring your presentation to life. First check on what image resources you company already holds. This can be supplemented with photo library shots which can be bought for a few dollars from the likes of



(we do not use Getty as they can be overpriced). Never use low resolution images or stretch them to fit a space.

Diagrams and graphs can be even more effective but keep them simple and legible.

We recommend creating an image library of your own and also investing in images or diagrams that you use frequently. As you might suspect we strongly recommend using a professional designer.   

7. Get “On Brand” and a create a consistent "look and feel"

Create slide templates that reflect and reinforce your identity through branding, colour and layout. Your templates can be saved as .pot files and used across all of your company’s presentations for a consistent brand image.

8. Colour, contrast and fonts

Colour influences mood and you should ensure that you use a limited and well integrated colour palette. Most of the presentations we work on follow corporate design guidelines but we try to keep the feel as bright and fresh as possible.

Good contrast between the background and text is important especially in well lit rooms. Text must be large enough to be easily read in actual presentation situations. However a great many people go the other way and make the text too large because they are working in design view ( where everything looks smaller)

We strongly advise that you avoid using non standard or corporate fonts in your presentation because special fonts have to be embedded within the presentation and can cause technical issues further down the line when shown on another PC or platform.

If you are displaying from a PC you should use Windows system fonts ( or Mac fonts if your final output is on a Mac). In Windows the available fonts are


, Comic Sans, Courier, Franklin Gothic Medium, Georgia, Impact, Lucida Console, Lucida Sans, Microsoft Sans Serif, Modern, MS Sans Serif ,Palatino, Roman, Script, Symbol, Tahoma,

Times New Roman

, Trebuchet,


, Webdings, WingDings ( The fonts in bold are the most commonly used and work well on screen)

9. Video and Audio

A brief video or audio clip can effectively back up a particular point and provide a welcome break for you and your audience. Clips should be kept short and support your message rather than delivering the message for you. Be very careful to test any presentation containing video on the actual computer you are using to present with. A low powered machine can freeze up on you. Obviously test your audio system as well.

10. Use the slide sorter and edit

While planning your presentation spend time in the Slide Sorter view of PowerPoint. This will display all of your slides on one page and will allow you to not only effectively judge their order, but also to see how your presentation will progress and whether it flows naturally.

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