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How to Wow with PowerPoint

In this day-and-age, there is no excuse to present a bad PowerPoint. No more bad colors, excessive text, star wipe transitions, Comic Sans font, etc. Here are a few steps on how to wow with PowerPoint – or whatever presentation tool you choose.

To start, you must have good content. I teach people what I call the ABCs of a good presentation:

  • Animations and design that support the message – there are hundreds of animations, photos, clip-art, etc. available. Don’t go overboard. Stick to limited animations and graphical elements that support your message. Don’t use clipart – ever – there are plenty of sites to order licensed images for free or a few dollars and Google offers a search for open-source licensed images you can use.
  • Big graphics, less bullets – this is the latest design trend. Most of the resources below will default to this type of design. It will tell your audience you are relevant and set you apart from the blue background, Arial type presentations they expect.
  • Clear, concise language – Your presentation supports what you are saying, it isn’t your speaker notes or a transcript of your talk. Make it clear and focused on the key takeaway. If people are reading and trying to understand your slide, they are not listening to you.

Stick to these ABCs and you will be a long way towards an excellent presentation. For additional readying, there are numerous resources and books to help with content and some basic design principles. Here are a few:

This article isn’t designed to get into detail on writing and designing presentations. Rather, I want to show you some of the numerous free and low-cost tools to help you step up your game. Check out some of these recommendations:

Creative Market and Envato are online marketplaces for creative professionals to sell templates, graphics, illustrations, etc. for others to use in their projects. You can download substantive slide deck templates in PowerPoint and Keynote to customize for your own uses. It might take some time to decide which slides to use and adjust them to fit your talk, but you will be starting with a well-designed, professional presentation. Creative Market sends 6 free things per week if you sign-up and sometimes they are presentation decks, so you might not even have to pay for them.

Canva is an online tool to help non-graphic designers create things, such as posters, invites, social media graphics, and, yes, presentations. They have templates that are bold and trendy. Some are free, some cost a few dollars. You can also get licensed images within the tool. It is free to use, but they charge for some templates and images.

Prezi has been around for a few years and is an alternative way to present presentations. Essentially everything in your presentation is on one large canvas and the software pans around in a dramatic fashion as you progress. You will still need to follow content and design principles.

Infographics – Infographics are certainly all of the rage, and, if done well, can convey your message very effectively. They are also an impactful alternative to the basic Excel charts. Easel.ly and Infogr.am are two sites that guide you to create your own infographics. They offer free and paid levels. Try them out – just don’t get too carried away. Busy infographics are too difficult to understand and defeat the purpose of the infographic.

Finally, if you regularly create PowerPoint or Keynote presentations, I encourage you to invest a few hours into an online course on Lynda.com or similar online training site. It will teach you some of the more advanced skills that will save you time and will also allow you to more easily adjust any purchased templates.

One last tip – practice your presentation. If you need the slides for speaker notes, you aren’t ready.

I hope this helps you and your association deliver more impactful presentations.

In the meantime, if you have any additional tips, tricks, or tools, please comment below.

How to Wow with PowerPoint

In this day-and-age, there is no excuse to present a bad PowerPoint. No more bad colors, excessive text, star wipe transitions, Comic Sans font, etc. Here are a few steps on how to wow with PowerPoint – or whatever presentation tool you choose.

To start, you must have good content. I teach people what I call the ABCs of a good presentation:

  • Animations and design that support the message – there are hundreds of animations, photos, clip-art, etc. available. Don’t go overboard. Stick to limited animations and graphical elements that support your message. Don’t use clipart – ever – there are plenty of sites to order licensed images for free or a few dollars and Google offers a search for open-source licensed images you can use.
  • Big graphics, less bullets – this is the latest design trend. Most of the resources below will default to this type of design. It will tell your audience you are relevant and set you apart from the blue background, Arial type presentations they expect.
  • Clear, concise language – Your presentation supports what you are saying, it isn’t your speaker notes or a transcript of your talk. Make it clear and focused on the key takeaway. If people are reading and trying to understand your slide, they are not listening to you.

Stick to these ABCs and you will be a long way towards an excellent presentation. For additional readying, there are numerous resources and books to help with content and some basic design principles. Here are a few:

This article isn’t designed to get into detail on writing and designing presentations. Rather, I want to show you some of the numerous free and low-cost tools to help you step up your game. Check out some of these recommendations:

Creative Market and Envato are online marketplaces for creative professionals to sell templates, graphics, illustrations, etc. for others to use in their projects. You can download substantive slide deck templates in PowerPoint and Keynote to customize for your own uses. It might take some time to decide which slides to use and adjust them to fit your talk, but you will be starting with a well-designed, professional presentation. Creative Market sends 6 free things per week if you sign-up and sometimes they are presentation decks, so you might not even have to pay for them.

Canva is an online tool to help non-graphic designers create things, such as posters, invites, social media graphics, and, yes, presentations. They have templates that are bold and trendy. Some are free, some cost a few dollars. You can also get licensed images within the tool. It is free to use, but they charge for some templates and images.

Prezi has been around for a few years and is an alternative way to present presentations. Essentially everything in your presentation is on one large canvas and the software pans around in a dramatic fashion as you progress. You will still need to follow content and design principles.

Infographics – Infographics are certainly all of the rage, and, if done well, can convey your message very effectively. They are also an impactful alternative to the basic Excel charts. Easel.ly and Infogr.am are two sites that guide you to create your own infographics. They offer free and paid levels. Try them out – just don’t get too carried away. Busy infographics are too difficult to understand and defeat the purpose of the infographic.

Finally, if you regularly create PowerPoint or Keynote presentations, I encourage you to invest a few hours into an online course on Lynda.com or similar online training site. It will teach you some of the more advanced skills that will save you time and will also allow you to more easily adjust any purchased templates.

One last tip – practice your presentation. If you need the slides for speaker notes, you aren’t ready.

I hope this helps you and your association deliver more impactful presentations.

In the meantime, if you have any additional tips, tricks, or tools, please comment below.

Dan Whiting

Dan Whiting is a communications, marketing, and government relations professional in Washington, DC. Dan starting working in public policy in 1996, serving 11 years as staff in the U.S. Senate as a policy advisor and then communications director. He marketed ideas, using content marketing, media relations, thought leadership and implementing new media channels when they were actually new. He also served in leadership at USDA for President Bush and as the first Director of Communications for the National Alliance of Forest Owners. He has survived crisis communications and taught writing, content marketing, and media relations workshops. He is passionate about communicating well to affect policy change while secretly hoping someone will hire him as a comedy writer. He is also a husband to one and a father to four (on purpose).