Tips for a Good PowerPoint Design

I am currently preparing a PowerPoint presentation for the Frontier in Education conference. My paper “What Computing Instructors Did Last Summer – Experiences and Lessons Learned” will be presented there. The paper is 8 pages long with a detailed description of the method used and a discussion of the validity of the results. My task now is to pick the most important parts of the paper to be included in the PowerPoint presentation, as I only have 15 minutes to present my work. The art of excluding text (or including only the most relevant text) is not as simple as one might think. I asked my supervisors and colleagues for advice on how to make a good PowerPoint Presentation and this is what I learned:

  1. Whenever it is suitable/possible, your title should be a summary or an assertion of what you want to convey with the particular slide.
  2. The body of the slide should support the summary/assertion
  3. Use pictures to aid your storytelling.
  4. Help your audience orient the information on the slide by considering the placement of your content. Arrows guide the audience’s reading direction and are good to include when you have a lot of information.
  5. Give the audience time to read the slide – don’t go too fast forward.
  6. Make sure to have some white space between your texts, this makes it easier for the audience to read.
  7. Consider the size of your text and pictures. The person sitting in the back of the room should be able to see them too.
  8.  Avoid long lists of text if possible. People’s memory is not built to remember long lists.

A good PowerPoint presentation makes a huge difference on the audience’s ability to recall. Whether you are a teacher or student (or whatever work role you have), presenting information is going to be part of your work. Who doesn’t want his/her audience to remember what was presented, or at least not falling asleep?

My list of tips is in no way conclusive and many of them might be obvious to some readers but it bears repeating. For additional reading on presentation design, please see:

Michael Alley, Madeline Schreiber, Katrina Ramsdell, and John Muffo, “How the Design of Headlines in Presentation Slides Affects Audience Retention,” Technical Communication, vol. 53, no. 4 (May 2006), pp. 225-234.