5 Simple PowerPoint Tips

When you hear “PowerPoint,” many connotations — often negative — likely come to mind. Perhaps this piece of software has forced you into late-night work sessions, high-stress mornings before a conference or even malfunctions in the boardroom.

But imagine a world where PowerPoint could help empower you. That’s what it’s supposed to do, of course. Here are 5 simple tips that will help you leverage PowerPoint like a true presentation design expert:

1. Align Objects

When you have multiple icons or photos on a slide, make sure everything is arranged in a beautiful, professional and orderly manner. You can make sure this is the case by following these simple steps:

1. Select the objects that you want to align
2. Select ‘Arrange’ in the home menu bar
3. Go to the bottom tab that says Align or Distribute
4. Select the alignment option you want

2. Simplify Charts and Graphs

When utilizing charts and graphs in PowerPoint, don’t just opt for the generic elements. You need to customize them to match the color and style of your brand. Also, when you first create a chart or graph in PowerPoint, it automatically provides standard numbers and labels that you might not need. Eliminate these numbers and reduce the clutter in order to keep your charts clean, simple and to the point. When you have a chart picked out, follow these suggestions:

1. With the chart selected, go to the chart layout tab. Here you can change the layout of all the labels, as well as take them out completely
2. If you go to the format tab, you can change the colors of the charts as well as add effects like shadows and custom chart styles

3. Custom Shape Your Photos

Did you know you can make your photos stand out by putting them into shapes? This can give your presentation some individuality and make it more customized. Follow these steps:

1. Select the image that you want to change
2. Click on the ‘Format’ tab
3. Choose ‘Crop’ and then ‘Mask Shape’
4. Select the shape you want your photo to be

4. Add Animations

Adding simple animations will add value and heightened interest to your next presentation. Beware! Too many complex animations can make things confusing and messy. Having just the right amount of simple animations and transitions — one every 5-10 slides is a good target — can make your presentation really stand out. Follow these instructions:

1. Select the object you want to animate
2. Go to the ‘Animations’ tab
3. Select an animation from the entrance effects. Pick one based off of the mood that you want to get across. Maybe a simple fade or float in
4. In the far right corner, select ‘Reorder’
5. Here you can reorder your animations as well as change the timing and effects options

5. Change the Size of Your Presentation

If you need a custom presentation size or if you need to create a custom banner or handout, you can do this easily in PowerPoint. Abide by these steps:

1. Choose ‘File’ then page setup
2. Change the height and width of the background and click ‘ok’

PowerPoint: You either love it or hate it. If you are in the latter category, I hope you’ll take steps to master this powerful platform — it’s worth it!

READ MORE: 3 Presentation Design Trends Every Presenter Should Know

About the Author

Scott Schwertly is the author of How to Be a Presentation God and CEO of Ethos3, a Nashville, TN-based presentation boutique providing professional presentation design and training for national and international clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to branded individuals like Guy Kawasaki.

If Scott is not working with his team building presentations, you will find him in the pool, on the bike, or on a long run. Scott lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and three dogs. He has a B.A. and M.B.A. from Harding University. Find Scott on Google+.

15 Responses to “5 Simple PowerPoint Tips”

  1. JJtoob

    Don’t go crazy with animations, though. Also, if you are using a PC with a projector or monitor as second display, you can use presenter view, hide the presenter window while in a presentation, and you can actually update things on the fly without having to exit the presentation. They’ll think you are a magician.

  2. glass_man

    Jeepers, you left out rule #1: any time you have text on the screen, no one is listening to you, the audience is reading and you are annoying them with your constant chatter!

  3. Steve

    A picture really does paint a thousand words and what’s more it’s so simple to make the picture look fantastic too

  4. EricGlare

    And a graph or a table will be different? No, they can be much harder to read than text. Simplicity is the key to all. If you find text is competing with the voice over then there is too much text because they should be complimentary. The text should be so short and brief (phrases, key words but no sentences) that the audience doesn’t have any downtime reading it and is looking to the presenter for full meaning. Some people do take this to the extreme though where they put up a title or very little else and proceed to ramble on around it losing all the advantage of using PowerPoint. So I think a well planned, structured presentation should not need your #1 rule – it’s for the mediocre.

  5. EricGlare

    I don’t see how animations made it into this list as it is one feature of PowerPoint that we could do very well without. They were fun when they first appeared in PowerPoint -for the presenter that is – but that very quickly soured and now they say something about the seriousness of the material and the judgement of the presenter.

    If you have good material don’t distract your audience from the flow by conspicuous transitions or animations. Remember too they take time which may not seem significant until you are on your feet presenting and trying to keep to time. If the presenter is trying to make up time they show up and dominate which is very irritating for both audience and presenter. I’ve noticed that audiences tend to be intimidated and not complain about content that is too complex but they groan audibly when spurious animations dominate.

    I use animations very rarely only when they fit the story. Mostly I use this function when I want to add extra material as I present to a slide that would otherwise distract from the initial points, eg adding a conclusion or building from simple to complex. But I keep the animations of these transitions minimal.

    I would rather see a presenter pare down their text or smarten up their alignments than spend time on animations.

  6. M. Juhl-Johansen Zölde-Fejér

    I have seen Powerpoint used, well, powerfully, to illustrate chemical/biological reactions and flow – for simple animations where a film seems a bit too much. Never use it myself, though.

  7. EricGlare

    Yes I do use PowePoint like you describe, for example flow of material through the large intestine. But it can be easier to use multiple slides, ie like a flip-book animation, rather than transitions within a slide which quickly become messy to work with. Whichever is the case though, I only use ‘appear’ as the transition unless there is a compelling reason to have a delayed entry.

  8. goldenoldie

    Remember, the only things bullets are good for is killing people. And on PowerPoint it is no different. With a bit of thought and creativity it is easy to eliminate those endless bullets altogether.

  9. glass_man

    Oh, yeah, one of the best ways to do a PowerPoint is to use Keynote. Easier to set up, easier to avoid bullets, easier to avoid long endless tables, easier to place images more accurately.

    The whole point of a PowerPoint or a Keynote presentation is to tell a story and to do that you need to engage the audience. If they are struggling to follow you, with endless texts and tables and hard to read/understand materials on the screen, the more you’ve lost the audience.

    Lastly, practice practice practice. If you are holding notes, OR READING THE SCREEN, you should have mailed it in.

  10. Alec Drew

    “Death by PowerPoint” is the phrase most people associate with presentations.
    PowerPoint has become the default programme for the lazy, i.e. those who decide to put their presentation together at the last minute and then use it as a prompt for themselves.
    We just love to watch a person read back their endless slides with endless bullet points as we drop slowly into a coma.

    Hint: Find a few appropriate images or if you have to use charts, keep them simple and then tell a story that will engage your audience. If you are not good at public speaking, take some lessons or get someone else to do it.
    Finally, don’t be afraid to turn off the screen for part of your presentation. Your audience is there to hear you, not be entertained by your use of graphics.

  11. The RydeMyPony Team

    Wow, people still bashing PowerPoint? Is it 2013? It´s not PowerPoint´s fault when your presentation sucks, it´s YOUR FAULT! When done right, it can be a beautiful thing. Like our startup pitch PowerPoint that you can see on our website http://www.rydemypony.com. Many people say it´s the best startup pitch deck ever done. But everybody has to decide that for themselves…