Making Your (Power)Point: Simple Tips to Polish Your Presentation

4 min read · 7 years ago


Let’s begin with a little mental field trip. In the mid-2000’s, MySpace and Facebook were battling it out for social media dominance. On the front lines of MySpace, users had the creative freedom to customize virtually every aspect of their pages – backgrounds, colors, fonts, etc. – which resulted in both glorious personal expression … and a whole lot of crazy. In the other camp, Facebook’s army of users adhered to its strict templates, generating a more polished and easier to use experience which ultimately helped it become the undisputed world leader in social networks.

So if you want to create a world-dominating presentation…. I mean, a more sophisticated looking slide deck, the key is consistency. Keeping a diligent eye on your alignment, fonts and color palette will help take your PowerPoint to the next level.

CONSISTENCY Starts with Templates

To ensure consistent fonts and alignment of titles and text throughout your deck, be sure to utilize the layout templates.

  • In the Home tab, choose the Layout that works best for each of your slides.

Consistent ALIGNMENT: Don’t Trust Your Eyes

So just how important is alignment? It’s so important that PowerPoint offers not just one, but an array of tools to help you align objects to the slide and to each other, as well as guides to verify alignment from one slide to the next.

Aligning an object to the slide

  • Select object(s) to align.
  • Use Format > Align.
  • Select one of the vertical or horizontal alignment options (Top, Left, Middle, etc).
  • Note: “Align to Slide” is default when only one object is selected.

Aligning objects to each other

  • Select objects to align.
  • Use Format > Align.
  • Select one of the vertical or horizontal alignment options (Top, Left, Middle, etc).
  • Note: “Align Selected Objects” is default when two or more objects are selected. However, you can change to “Align to Slide.”

Distributing objects evenly

  • Select objects to evenly distribute
  • Use Format > Align, then choose Distribute Horizontally or
    Distribute Vertically to create even spacing across your select area or slide.

Verifying alignment

  • Use View > Guides to see dotted cross-hairs
  • Guides default to center/middle, but can be dragged to new positions
  • Review alignment of text and objects across all slides.
  • Note: The guides do not appear in Slide Show mode.


Consistent FONTS: They Don’t Have to be Boring

The most common problem I see in presentations is inconsistent font styles, which generally fall into two categories:

Simple Oversight

Even when you stick to the templates, rogue fonts can be introduced when inserting text boxes or pasting elements from other presentations. Even very similar looking fonts can create visual disharmony, so get a little fussy.

  • As part of your final review process, keep a watchful eye on the font style area of the Home
  • Click on text areas within imported elements to confirm the font style (typeface, size and formatting) matches the rest of your presentation.

Attempting to Make it More Fun

Believe me, I get it. You want to breathe some life into a deck of 40 snooze-inducing slides of text. Your first thought is “a new typeface would sure make things more exciting.” Hold on there, cowboy, before you do your presentation a grave disservice. (This is perhaps my biggest pet peeve, so I’m also going to take a moment to breathe it out with you…. 10, 9, 8…)

Ok, there are good ways and bad ways to make text-only slides more appealing. Stick to these guidelines to keep your slides lookin’ fine. (And to keep me from twitching):

  • Take advantage of style options — bold, italic and/or uppercase — to emphasize your key points. Be sure to repeat this formatting style throughout your deck.
  • Use color to create contrast. Either change the color of the text itself, or add a colorful backdrop shape to create a visual element.
  • If you want to add a second font to the mix, choose the serif/sans opposite of your first font. Serif and sans fonts are easily distinguishable from each other and work together in visual harmony. A second font can be well used in subheads, captions, sidebars, etc.

Convert Boring Bullet Points into “SmartArt”

A very quick and easy way to liven up those text-only slides is to turn them into boxed lists, flow charts and more using PowerPoint’s SmartArt tool.

  • Select a bulleted list, then right click and choose “Convert to SmartArt”
  • Choose one of the graphic options that helps convey your message (list, process, etc.)
  • Easy editing: Change colors and fonts to match your presentation style. Add or edit text within the graphic.

Creating SmartArt Graphics in PowerPoint from Jamie Heckler

COLOR Me Consistent: More is Not Always Merrier

It is likely your company’s brand guidelines will influence the color choices for your presentation. Whether you have some flexibility or total freedom in color selection, think of your color palette as a party.

  • A party of one is no fun.
  • A party of two makes leads to clear communication and deep connection.
  • A party of three adds diversity and richness to the conversation.
  • A party of four or more can quickly feel chaotic, particularly if more than one participant is loud.
  • Keep it by invitation only: stick to your chosen color set throughout the deck.

As a last resort, you can select one of PowerPoint’s palette options in the Design tab. Just keep in mind that Microsoft is not known for its amazing design choices.

Shaping the Structure

Now that you’ve got a handle on how to make your presentation visually shine, it might be worth taking a step back to review your story structure. Are the needs and wants of your audience front and center? If you’re not sure, check out my recent blog post: “Making Your (Power)Point: 6 Steps for Creating Audience-Centric Presentations.”

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: Making Your (Power)Point: Simple Tips to Polish Your Presentation

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