The Intersection: Jan 2014

Welcome to The Intersection, a series designed to help you anticipate and prepare for public policy challenges and opportunities.

Subscribe to The Intersection:

Make PowerPoint Work for You!

Let’s be honest: almost no one enjoys sitting through a 30-minute presentation, let alone creating one. One problem is that PowerPoint is still the industry standard for showing off your big idea or your latest research findings. Valiant attempts have been made to spice up the look of presentations using tools like Keynote or Prezi, which aim to make the deck more visually appealing but lack any other major improvements. However, there is hope for all the PowerPoint presenters out there. A few simple tips will help you overcome common PowerPoint mistakes and use the program effectively.

Based on modern design trends across most media, the new rule is to keep things simple. Websites, print ads and even the latest mobile apps have all moved towards bigger photos and less text. We can easily adapt similar ideas to create a visually inspiring presentation.

Large Photos

Utilize large photos for your slides to illustrate your main themes. I’m not talking about those “90’s tech images” that look like your desktop background or clip art cartoons. People are naturally drawn to a colorful graphic, rather than large bodies of text. Your audience is also more likely to remember your explanation through an association with the image. Don’t be afraid to use stock photo websites like or; they have a vast library of photos that will help you tell your story. And using images infused with humanity is one of the best ways to connect with other humans!

Less Text

Limit your text on each slide to short, easily digestible thoughts. Giving your audience a paragraph or a long list of bullets will force them to labor through the dense information on the screen and distract them from what you’re actually saying. Try using a simple phrase, a single word or a number. You can also marry text with images. The best advertisements and websites are doing so in their “feature” images. Using this technique will provide your audience with a familiar experience and make your presentation easier to comprehend.

"Don't allow a bullet point to hide the importance of a key finding."Large Statistics

If you have a compelling statistic, make it pop! With the rising popularity of infographics, try using similar design elements like iconography to help emphasize the numbers. Don’t allow a bullet point to hide the importance of a key finding.

Subtle Animations

Making pictures fly and twirl onto the slide can be fun, but it can also be distracting. However, a flat, static PowerPoint can put people to sleep. While PowerPoint has a sizeable library of animation pre-sets, “fade” is the animation used by the best designers and most pleasing for the audience. Modern website designers are commonly using this effect as you scroll to new sections of content. This provides the idea or feeling of an unveiling. TV producers figured this out decades ago. Try using this effect in your slide transitions.

Make your message shine during your next presentation by using PowerPoint more effectively. Make your presentation more interesting for you and your audience by stepping away from the bullet points and crudely cropped photos.