I see lots of slides that clients create and then ask me to help them make over. There are some problems that I see over and over and I thought I’d tell you about them because avoiding these mistakes will help you improve your slides a lot!
1. Ditch the text boxes!
I don’t know why people are allergic to PowerPoint’s built-in slide layouts. They are your friends! That’s because they help you create consistent slides with a minimum of fuss and bother.
What I see instead is slides created with the Title Only layout and a text box inserted below the title. The person types in the text and formats it manually. Then the text box is moved around — and the text resized — to make it fit. The result is text that moves around from slide to slide and is a different size on each slide.
Instead, use the Title & Content layout. Put the text in the body of the slide in the main text placeholder. If necessary, reset the slide by right-clicking just off the slide and choosing Reset Slide.
Is there a legitimate use for text boxes? Yes! Use them for image captions or labels
2. That reminds me…
Thinking about text that is a different size on each slide, there is a setting that you should change. The setting automatically resizes text to match the size of a text placeholder (but not a textbox). It’s very well hidden.
I just changed this on my husband’s computer, because it was driving him crazy. He wanted the text to be a certain size but it kept on resizing itself.
- Go to File>Options.
- Choose the Proofing category and click the AutoCorrect Options button.
- On the AutoFormat as You Type tab, uncheck Autofit Title Text to Placeholder and Autofit Body Text to Placeholder.
- Click OK twice to close the dialog boxes.
If your text doesn’t fit, do one of the following:
- Edit out some of the text — recommended.
- Divide the content over multiple slides — also a good option.
- Slightly increase the size of the placeholder on the right or bottom.
- Convert the text to SmartArt and find a layout that works for your text.
3. Use SmartArt
It’s time to stop using bulleted text on slides. I don’t care how fascinating your topic and how energetic a speaker you are, bulleted text makes you look boring.
There’s a quick, cheap fix and it’s called SmartArt. It’s a lifesaver for non-designers. SmartArt turns bulleted text into a a graphic. Here are the steps:
- Enter the text in the body text placeholder (which you’ll have if you use the Title & Content layout.
- Click anywhere inside the placeholder to select it.
- On the Home tab, choose Convert to SmartArt.
- To access the entire list, choose More SmartArt graphics.
- On the SmartArt Tools Design tab that appears, I recommend clicking Colors and choosing one of the Colorful options or something other than the default monotone.
- Also look at the SmartArt Styles gallery for some good instant style options.
Yes, a better option would be to get rid of a lot of your text and think more visually. Not everything you say has to be on the slide. But SmartArt is better than bulleted text.
4. Do I really need that on the slide?
On each slide with text think, “What could I just say and not put on the slide? Does that text really need to be there?” There’s no reason to put everything you say on the slide! Put it in the Notes pane and use Presenter View when you present to see the notes. Practice so you know what you’re going to say without having to read the slides.
Believe me, when you speak without reading, it’s liberating! And your audience will be happier, too.
5. Make each slide title work hard!
Slides don’t HAVE to have a title, but most do. Make your slide titles work! Think of them as a newspaper headline that summarizes and piques your audience’s interest. The slide title should sell the slide (why is this slide important?) and make the main point clear.
So, ditch the slide titles that say Types of Insurance or Outcomes. If you make your titles a full sentence, or almost, it will say more. A question works well because it engages the audience.
6. Don’t needlessly capitalize words
Capitalizing the first letter of each word in slide titles is OK if you must, although I prefer sentence case because it’s a smoother read. But doing the same in the body of the slide just makes the audience slog through the text.
7. Think, what picture would make this clearer or more memorable?
Take the time to think about each slide and what image would help make the meaning clearer or more striking. If the presentation is persuasive, consider images that incorporate emotion.
Try it you’ll like it!
Take a few slides and apply these fixes to them Are they better? Leave a comment!
This is VERY HELPFUL. You manage to put a huge amount of helpful information in a very concise way….bet your slides are awesome!
Many thanks for all you do to help us be better communicators/presenters!
A point you might like to add: It can really spoil the start of a Powerpoint show if you leave it as a .ppt file, and this can also cause annoying interruptions if you drop out of the presentation. The audience then have to watch your search for that tiny icon to restart the presentation, and some presenters really make heavy going of that search when using a remote to control the pointer! At the stage when you have finished editing your file, try the simple step of saving this as a .pps or .ppsx (“Powerpoint Show”). Then simply clicking… Read more »
Yes Peter – that dreaded tiny icon!
Instead: hit F5 to get the show going! – from the very first slide. By making your first slide a fullscreen black ‘picture’, you may even start your presentation long before the audience is seated: they will see ‘nothing’ but that ‘black screen’ until you proceed to your slide #2.
Thinking of it: to display a single slide in fullscreen: press Shift-F5. (This is also a convenient way to preview a slide during editing.)