The Do's and Don'ts of Presentation Fonts

November 18, 2009

Ah yes, the font...

Never has something so small created such grand disasters for so many. It may seem trivial, but when it comes to incorporating text into your slides font is everything. The size and style of the lettering you choose for your presentation can make your presentation take wing or make it crash and burn.

There is a reason why we're not all graphic designers. Choosing great fonts can be question of taste, but there are a lot of basics that anyone can – and should – learn before deciding to fill slides with loads of words that no one can read.

Here are 5 font tips you definitely need to refer to before your next presentation:

Stand Out
It may seem obvious, but the most common mistake people make when choosing fonts is picking a style or color that blends into the background of their slides. Don't do this! Your fonts need to standout from the body of your slides.

Don't Get Fancy
Although I would love to see someone use some insanely baroque font and really make it work, most of us should stick to the basics when it comes to font styles. Keep it simple!

Same Same Same
Don't mix up a number of font styles. I understand the need for more than one, but if you find yourself using three or more, you may be flirting with a readability disaster.

To Serif or Not to Serif
A serif is the little tail that appears on various letters in different font styles. When you are using a lot of text, serifs make for easy reading. That's why most magazines and papers use them. However, lots of text is a fundamental no-no for PowerPoint presentations and I recommend sticking with basic “sans serif” fonts.

For example:

Times New Roman is a font with serifs.

Arial is a font without (sans) serifs.

Don't Capitalize on Your Message

We've all seen slides where a presenter has insisted on CAPITALIZING EVERY WORD IN THEIR MESSAGE.

Isn't that annoying?

When a presenter capitalizes unnecessarily it is as troublesome as mixing up too many font styles. The text becomes difficult to read and we quickly begin to lose track of - and interest in – the offending PowerPoint presentation. If you need to draw attention to a statement or a headline consider using bold text or even italics, but don't overdo those either.

When it comes to fonts, less is more. Don't agonize. Make it big and make it readable. Remember, this is a presentation, not a book!

About the Author: Scott Schwertly is an epic storyteller.  Today, he owns and operates Ethos3 Communications, a Nashville, TN-based presentation boutique providing professional presentation design and training for national and international clients ranging from Fortune 100 companies to branded individuals like Guy Kawasaki.

He may live in Nashville, TN with his wife and three dogs, but he calls San Diego home – the place of his beloved San Diego Chargers.  Scott has a B.A. and M.B.A. from Harding University.