Champagne Design — PowerPoint Design

I'll do your props — PowerPoint templates & content

4 pointers that make or break your presentation

Almost two decades since the first time I clicked on the PowerPoint icon!

I’ve seen plenty of presentations. Some good, some great, some that make me cringe. Let’s address those wicked ones here and quickly turn them into great presentations.

Finally, your business has taken the plunge and invested in a well crafted, well designed template. You have a great tool. Just need a few pointers to keep going and steer you away from those poor ones seen way too often. Seen every day, so much so that they have become the low normal where the user starts piling in the information, content, maps, graphs, videos, charts, tables… an overwhelming amount of stuff. The 26 foot 5th wheel camping trailer packed to the gills with all the summer toys, vs. the West Coast Trail backpacker. Let’s not shovel everything in!

Just a few points to avoid this kitchen sink phenomenon.
(This is what I should tell my clients (politely)).

  1. Colour Palette
  2. Grid
  3. Font Size
  4. Concise Content

Colour Palette – Follow It
An investment has been made for the company’s branding, sometimes an actual document had been published on the topic. The most obvious element is the logo. Less obvious but just as important are the company colours. Air Canada, red and white, WestJet blue and aqua, Ikea navy and yellow. Seeing a printed page and it’s colour scheme, without even seeing the logo, you instinctively know which company is expressed.

Air Canada branded colours

Air Canada branded colours

Ikea branded colours

Ikea branded colours

The important thing to remember is to format your content to match the colours in your PowerPoint template. You have been provided with a customized, pre-programmed set of colours. They match your branding. Resist the urge to disregard these RGB numbers.

Your branded colour chips in PowerPoint

Your branded colour chips in PowerPoint

It’s best to follow the established colour palette. Your audience members have no problem spotting those unformatted screaming colours in imported content from autocad, excel, mapping software. Just a few minutes are all that is needed to brand your content. See the results of two minutes of work on the map below, compared to the colour palette above. A vector map, either EMF or WMF can be quickly ungrouped and re-coloured right in PowerPoint. As for a JPG or PNG file, they need to be recoloured in more expensive/complex software, as exports from Photoshop or Illustrator.

A well branded map in PowerPoint

A well branded map in PowerPoint, matches it’s colour chips, see above

If your base information is in a more complex software, GeoScout, AutoCad… RTFM, and type-in those all important RGB numbers into your colour choices. Your audience will love it. Given the exact figures for programmed RGB numbers, there is no excuse to use default colours in external software. Lime green and magenta used to be PowerPoint 2003’s defaults!

Grid – Follow It
It is amazing how the human eye can pick up patterns. (I should know, as my other passion is tessellations.) As a result pattern discrepancies jump out at the audience. If there is a tiny shift in your title location, or its font size, try flipping back and forth between two slides – your eye will pick it up immediately. This small change pulls the observer out, no longer listening to content but analyzing format. Same as someone talking during a movie. Destroys the flow of the story. While in slide edit mode, press the keyboard shortcut for your guides ALT-F9. This command pulls up the editable guides. In most instances, if the template has been properly formatted, all you need to do is keep your content aligned to these. See the example below.

ALT-F9 turns on the guides in PowerPoint

ALT-F9 turns on the guides in PowerPoint

Pressing the “Reset Layout” button quickly straightens things out.

If you follow the invisible grid  while creating your slide content, your audience will stay that much more focussed on you the speaker.

Font Size – Increase It
Slides are not print documents.
Slides are not cue cards.
Slides are visual tools to help you convey a message. Slides are digital props.

The same as theatre props to help the story along. These props must be clear and visible to the audience. In the case of fonts, they should also be clear and visible. Legible. A good rule of thumb is to keep your font size greater than 18 point.

Keep the audience in mind. Nancy Duarte, in her book Slide:ology, compares slides to billboards along the highway. Big image, huge font, one quick message, and you’ve got it as you drive past. Dave Paradi built us a chart to determine the minimum font size, depending on the venue and screen used for the presentation. A font size of 20 points might be okay in a cozy boardroom, but definitely not in a 200 foot long hall filled with investors. Have a look at the chart below. Click on it to enlarge the image. A very handy chart. Thanks Dave.

Dave Paradi, Minimum Font Sizes depending on venue,

Dave Paradi, Minimum Font Sizes depending on venue,

Concise Content – Decrease It

They used to say 4 or 5 bullets points per slide. But this was a direct equivalent to cue cards. Small 4×3 cards held in hand behind the podium. More for the speaker to remember the flow of his talk.

Use slides properly, as a digital prop, lets forget the cue card attitude. One pertinent point per slide. Well written, concise, illustrated. I foresee a few decades for this to occur on a wide scale.

Verbiage deters attention span. Imagine being confronted by this series of 4 slides. Jaw dropping.

Way too many messages on these 4 slides! More of a print document than a prop.

Way too many messages on these 4 slides! More of a print document than a prop.

Filter your slide’s content to its one kernel. The one point you need to absolutely make. The rest comes as details from you talking to the audience. And if you must give the audience every minute detail, give them a print document to refer to after the fact. One trend has been to use the notes area of the available printouts, as a details document. By the way, that’s where the cue cards have gone… in the notes area, while in presenter view.

One idea per slide.

One idea per slide. Short concise text. Big images. Works the best!

One idea per slide. Short concise text. Big images. Works the best!

Audience First
It all has to do with your audience’s eyeballs. Perception. They will instantly pick up that weird screamer colour in an otherwise consistent colour palette. They will immediately pick up the inconsistent font sizes from slide to slide, be it in the title area or in the content. And quickly get turned off if they can’t even read the font due to its style or miniscule size. Confront them with a paragraph of text? They might fall asleep. If you follow the above few pointers, you will find yourself floating above, with the visually stunning presentations. Think of the audience first when you put together your content. And drill the above 4 pointers into your workflow. You will feel better, so will the audience.

5 comments on “4 pointers that make or break your presentation

  1. Dave Paradi


    Thanks for including my font size table in this post. For those who present on a flat screen TV, I also have a table for those screen sizes since the screen is measured diagonally instead of by width alone. Go to and download the tables (in English of French).

    Dave Paradi


  2. Pingback: Best Slide Series of 2013? | champagnedesign

  3. Pingback: Best Slide Series of 2013? | Champagne Design — PowerPoint Design

  4. Britney

    Appreciate you bloogging this


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