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4 Ways to Improve PowerPoint Slides

Posted by Alan Magnan on 3/20/14 4:00 AM
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It’s a popular term in the training world: “Death by PowerPoint.” If you haven’t experienced such a session, you’ve most likely heard someone else complain about one. The slides just keep coming. They’re crammed with bullet points in a font too small to read easily. Not that it matters, because the trainer is simply narrating them to the audience anyway. Here are four principles that will improve your learners’ experience when it comes to slides.

Use Less, It Really Is More

Slides shouldn’t convey all your content. They should outline the highlights. You can use handouts, manuals, electronic files, or links to post-course resources for all the details. Generally, in training, you should strive to show fewer than ten slides per hour. This will also help you avoid “narrator-itis,” which is famous for annoying your learners.

Apply the 7x7 Rule

This rule keeps your slides lean. You should include no more than seven lines of text on a slide. Each line should have no more than seven words. If you feel it is forcing you to drop content from your slides, GOOD! That’s the point. Following this rule also allows you to use a font size that is readable from anywhere in the training room.

Complement Your Colors

One of the most basic rules of graphic design is to use colors that go well together. Do a web search on the term “color wheel.” Most of them will show you how to use complementary colors in your visual medium. Your work will be easier on the eyes and look more professional. Your slides should feel more like a well-done painting, rather than a bowl of Skittles!

Go Easy on the Transitions

There are dozens of different transitions available to use as one slide changes to the next. Although transitions can add interest to your presentation, they can also become distracting or even annoying to learners. Use a maximum of two: one for basic transitions between slides, and one for the transition from one lesson to the next. Now your transitions actually convey meaning relevant to your course structure.

The best PowerPoint presentations are those that people don’t really notice. If they aren’t preoccupied with your slides’ layout, design, or volume, they will be more attentive to your course content. Good luck in your training work, and may your slides be lively rather than deadly!



Alan has been a course leader with Langevin since 1996. He studied business administration at Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology. Alan’s philosophy on training is that it can be fun, engaging, and active, but that’s just what’s on the surface. Training must also be practical, realistic, and applicable. Alan is a computer geek at heart and enjoys programming and gaming in his spare time. He’s also a great fan of the outdoors during the summer months, and when the winter moves in, you’ll find him reading, or recording and playing music.

Topics: presentation skills, tips-for-trainers

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