When it comes to creating awesome slideshows — whether you use PowerPoint, Keynote or other slideshow presentation software — there are some basic tips to keep in mind. Have a consistent overall template design. Animate with a purpose. Have excellent content and strong organization. Speak with bullet points and keep on message.

All these tips are great. But in the end, it’s important to remember that a well-designed slideshow presentation is the sum of its parts. So to make an good-looking presentation, start with a good slide.

Previous posts have offered tips for template design and basic slideshow animation. Now here are some considerations for creating well-composed slides.

Now, what makes a great slide?

  • A well-designed template
  • Appropriate effects
  • Skillful composition

1. Identify the slideshow requirements. Absolutely top priority! Good slide composition for a speaker presentation is often very different from good composition for a sales presentation or training materials. Take time to analyze the goals of the presentation, the circumstances in which it will be seen, and the audience that will view it. Don’t do a thing until all those factors are in focus.

2. For speaker presentations: Start with the 6 X 6 rule. No more than six bullet points, each with about six words. Then add a visual IF it helps convey the point of the slide. The visual MUST be something the speaker can discuss, not something merely decorative. After the title slide, use no more than three layouts—select from the Layout menu provided by PowerPoint (available when you create a New Slide and also from the Home tab). The goal is to support the speaker, not to compete. So keep composition simple and consistent throughout the presentation.



3. For sales and marketing presentations: Use the 6 X 6 rule sparingly, if at all. It’s a good idea to create a couple of basic composition layouts and use them for most of the slides. But the goal is to keep the viewer interested, so punctuate consistency with creative change-ups. Punctuation slides can break out of the conventional layout altogether—for example, filling the slide with a single graphic, fitting text in a shape, including a graphic that runs off the slide, etc.


4. For training materials and educational presentations: Use the 6 X 6 rule at the beginning of a section or lesson to provide an overview. Then choose two or three proportional set-ups that fit the material: for example, 3 X 40 (three points with around 40 words each) or 2 X 100. Use these consistently. Remember that presentations designed to be read at the viewer’s own pace should have enough text to communicate each point completely. Add a boxed element to the layout if you need to include a reference point, link, example, etc. on most slides. And use only one illustration per slide. (One illustration might include two images if the point is a comparison.)


Work with these basic guidelines for a while, then start experimenting. The key thing is first to have a foundation. Once the foundation is in place, make changes ONLY after deciding that something different will serve a purpose more effectively.



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