For some, PowerPoint (PPT) presentations are becoming a thing of the past, but for those who still use them - *hand in the air* that would be me! - or their Apple cousin, Keynote, read on! (Not so fast! So you do not use PPT or Keynote. That's cool. I know you have a colleague who uses one or the other, and you have been looking to offer some constructive criticism, right? I knew it! Let's charge ahead!)
Voyage with me into the mind of an English instructor. Come on. I promise it will all make sense in a minute.
Upon first glance at a student's paper, an instructor, especially an English instructor, can immediately ascertain if the paper is "A" work or otherwise. The spacing is nicely done; margins are the right size; the font is our all-time favorite, Times New Roman, at a 12-point size; headings are in place; you even see a few citations that are properly formatted. You can feel it; this is a winner, and you want to read on! Right?! (Or am I alone on this one?)
Just as educators may be a touch leery of the contents or the quality of the contents of a paper if it is poorly formatted, just as we may be skeptical of a restaurant that looks a little shady (although I've been known to visit my fair share of greasy spoons), or just as a website with a questionable design (*biting lip) gives us pause, your presentations can find themselves under similar scrutiny by your audiences. A couple of small presentation design details you may not have considered are ...
Should you use a dark background or a light background? How do you know when you should use one or the other, and why does it even matter? And what size font should you use? Here are the answers.
If you are presenting to an audience of 50 or more, then your presentation template should have a dark background with light color text.
If you are presenting to an audience with fewer than 50 in the audience, then use a light background with dark text.
In both instances, this makes it easier on audience members' eyes.
And here's how you know if your text is larger enough: print a slide and place it on the floor. If you can read the text with no problem from a standing position, then the font is large enough for your presentation. A good rule of thumb is your font should be no smaller than 28-point, titles should be at least 32-point, and you should have no more than about five bullets of information per slide with about five to seven words per bullet.
However ... my personal preference has led me to a more minimalistic approach where I provide a high-quality, high-impact graphic with only a few words or one or two bullets of information on a slide because graphics stir emotions unlike any bulleted words can ever stir them. My go-to for snagging graphics is Google Images. You might also consider Shutterstock and iStock or even PowerPoint add-ins that provide access to amazing graphics right there as you're building your presentation!
And for professionals who deliver sales presentations, here are some additional specific tips to make your pitch that much more powerful!
Remember you want to be what draws in your audience, not your presentation software. Always position yourself so you, your words, and your energy are more important than anything you could ever flash up on a screen!