Improving Your PowerPoints

These days most students do at least one PowerPoint presentation in elementary school.  
As you might expect, they utilize just about every annoying sound effect, nauseating background color and dizzying animation feature imaginable to make their first slideshow.  There’s nothing wrong with this, it's a great way for kids to learn about all the features available in PowerPoint.  But if you want your students to develop a sense of design (or you're working with adult professionals who desperately need to develop their sense of design) then you need some guidelines to improve their PowerPoint presentations.

Here are some very reasonable guidelines for PowerPoint Presentations (they are the same ones we stress for 7th graders for reference):
  1. Use the same background for all the slides.  When in doubt use one of the Design Templates that came with PowerPoint. These templates guarantee a professional looking background every time.  You can find even more premade templates on the Microsoft Office Website .
  2. Pick High Contrast colors.  High contrast means light letters on a dark background for example.  High contrasting colors makes it much easier to read the slides.  When in doubt use one of the Design Templates that came with PowerPoint.  This guarantees high contrast colors.
  3. Use one good picture or graphic per slide.  PowerPoint is a visual medium so please use pictures and graphics.  Just make sure the pictures are relevant to the topic and large enough for the audience to see and appreciate them.  Search online for free images.
  4. Minimum of 32 pts for the font size.  Remember you’re making a presentation and not an eye exam.  Your audience should be able to read the slides without binoculars.
  5. Maximum of 5 lines of text per slide.   Use bullet lists and phrases rather than whole sentences.  Plan on explaining the bullets and phrases as part of your oral presentation.
  6. Please don’t read the slides to your audience.  Generally speaking, all the members of your audience are literate.  Instead of reading the slides to them use the slide as a launching point to tell them more about your topic.

    Featured YouTube Video:
    A 4 minute video on the importance of not reading your slides.

    7) Check your spelling and grammar.  Nothing distracts the attention of your audience more than spelling & grammar errors.
    8) Use good presentation skills.  Make sure you have good eye contact, you’re loud enough, and don’t forget to practice your presentation before you present.  These things are very important to your audience and they should be important to you.
For you social studies teachers out there, here’s a hypothetical version of the Gettysburg Address done by Abraham Lincoln using PowerPoint.  We're very lucky this show was never presented.
Here’s a blog about improving all your presentations through simplification. Presentation Zen, by Garr Reynolds is full of tips and commentary that can help you improve your shows.  Consider this entry comparing the visual presentations made by Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
And finally, for any teachers out there who need a pre-made PowerPoint, check out this website for hundreds to choose from:
(Special thanks to for sharing this resource!)

PRACTICE ACTIVITY:   Try opening a blank PowerPoint presentation and try to find the premade (guaranteed to look good) Design Templates. 
Look for a button like this on the Tool Bar:  design button

TO KEEP ON LEARNING:  If you're looking for more ways to improve your PowerPoint presentations try searching the internet for:

PowerPoint backgrounds
PowerPoint layouts
PowerPoint templates
Better PowerPoints
PowerPoint tutorials