PowerPoint is a slide presentation package. It allows you to prepare a series of slides and them present them to your audience.
Each of the slides within a presentation will normally follow the same basic design, called a template. The contents of each template are actually contained on hidden slides within the presentation called Master Slides, but we won’t worry about those here.
A template is a design guide for a presentation. Using one means that all the slides in the presentation will have a similar look to them, which is very advisable.
There are a myriad of free templates available, but if you are preparing a presentation for your company, it is likely that you will have a company template which you might have to use. Do check this out before you create your masterpiece and find you have to then spend hours altering it so that the Bloggs & Co. logo fits in!
Similarly, if you are presenting at a conference, it is very advisable to ask the conference organisers if there is a template for the conference. If all presenters follow the same template, the impression they give to the audience is one of seamless professionalism, which is not a bad impression to give at all.
Do also check if the templates uses any specific fonts, as if you transfer your presentation to another computer, it could substitute a missing font for another which can mess up the look of the presentation. Good templates will either use standard Windows fonts or give you a list of fonts used.
Colours will change slightly from computer to computer, as no two screens are exactly identical. And they can change more when projected onto a large screen via a video projector. So our recommendation would be not to use extremely bright colours. Low contrast between the text colour and the background is also a risk – for example light grey on a white background might look good on your laptop screen, but when projected onto a large screen the text could become illegible. In addition, too much contrast can have a negative effect on your presentation. For example, red items on a blue background tend to 'jump' (as my old art teacher used to say) and look undefined (see below).
If you are following a professional template, it is likely that the designer was aware of this and you should probably follow the colour guidelines included within the template. Similarly you might want to consider colour combinations that people with colour perception deficiency will find problematic. For more information on these types of colour combinations, there is an article in our Technical Blog covering this.
PowerPoint provides some snazzy animations to make your presentation look great. However, if you put a slide animation that takes 5 seconds to go from one slide to the next, that will be 5 seconds of silence on each slide during your presentation. That can seem an eternity, and both you and your audience will soon tire of the wait.
Additionally, you want to avoid your audience having to behave like they were watching a tennis match, moving their heads from one side of the screen to the other and back again whilst following the slide animation. Remember, the animation you see on your 17 inch laptop screen might be projected onto a screen many, many hundreds of times bigger, and this will amplify the movements too.
So if you are going to use an animation between slides, our recommendations would be:
• Use the same one for the whole presentation
• Use one that doesn’t have much movement at all (for example a simple fade)
• Make sure it lasts less than 2 seconds
Golden rule: Don’t give your audience motion sickness through your animations!