This past month, I did two makeovers–one for a long-time friend who was presenting at an academic conference and the other for a business partner. Since I wasn’t getting paid, I went through them fairly quickly and by the time I had finished both, I realized that I had a simple system that I could share with you.
Do you sometimes want to quickly make a presentation look better without changing the content very much? In these two instances, I wasn’t at liberty to reorganize the content or change the number of slides much, so I had to make simple changes. Yes, I would have liked to do a more thorough job, but …
Step 1: Apply a better theme or template
I have created a PowerPoint theme that has the settings I want for font, font size, title justification and more. It has a plain white background and I find it to be a good place to start. In my tip, “Create a better PowerPoint template,” I describe this template/theme.
This step cleans up a lot of messes.
Step 2: Format the background
If the presenter wants a background other than plain white, I add it here. My preference would be for a simple gradient, but my friend wanted something more interesting than that, so I took the background she had chosen and deleted some of the elements, leaving a simple, textured bar.
Step 3: Reset the slides
People fiddle with their slides too much! I recommend using the layouts that come with PowerPoint (or creating your own if you have 2007 or 2010), but not moving things around too much, unless you’re a designer or unless the slide absolutely requires it.
The result of all this fiddling is:
- Slide titles in varying locations, which would be called title jump-itis. As you go from slide to slide, the slides jump a little each time. It gives the audience eye strain!
- Inconsistent fonts and font sizes, which make the presentation look chaotic
- Pictures and shapes all over the place, which results in jumping objects.
- Distorted or grainy photos
Resetting a slide moves everything to match the layout. So I reset most of the slides. I explain how in my tip, “Resetting a slide: A quick fix for awful slides.”
Often, I change the layout, too. I can’t tell you how many times I see a slide with empty placeholders on it. It’s so annoying to work with those empty placeholders on the slide (even though they don’t show up in Slide Show view). By choosing the most appropriate layout, I make my editing easier and ensure consistency.
Step 4: Add images
Images are powerful! A presentation totally without images will seem boring, even if it isn’t. People remember images better than text. Images help people understand concepts. Images are persuasive. So, if possible, I add images.
Step 5: Remove unnecessary text
Often, slides are so full of text that there isn’t room for the images. So I start cutting out text. I find that people include a lot of unnecessary text. Some things that you say don’t need to go on the slide. For example, if your slide shows 4 ways to accomplish save time on your e-mail, you don’t need to include on the slide, “There are 4 ways to save time on your e-mail.” You can just say it. Then show the 4 ways.
Step 6: Turn text into SmartArt, a chart/graph, or a table
SmartArt is a feature of PowerPoint 2007 and 2010. It creates diagrams and is much better than 2003’s diagram feature. When I can’t do anything more with the text, I turn it into SmartArt. A diagram is a visual way of showing text and so it has much more impact on the audience. I often ungroup the SmartArt just to get more flexibility. If the presenter is using 2003, I always ungroup the SmartArt, because otherwise the person won’t be able to edit the text or shapes.
Let me know if these steps work for you. Do you have a system that you use to quickly get slides into shape?